Love in this Time of Cholera

January 12, 2013 | Print Print |

Luis Rondon Paz

Each person who entered the station was asked to disinfect their hands.

HAVANA TIMES — Yesterday morning, while I was going to work and reflecting on life and its peculiarities, I heard a conversation between two people. The volume of their voices made it impossible to ignore, plus the topic of the conversation is what particularly caught my attention.

I paid close attention and was petrified to hear that the “cholera virus” was making its rounds in the city of Havana, spreading at an alarming and aggressive rate.

One of the gentlemen (a doctor, from what I could infer by his white coat) spoke of a patient who had presented a clinically suspicious case.

A heavy set woman in her forties had displayed symptoms of vomiting and semi-soft diarrhea, though it had an acceptable color. The doctor was able to stabilize her, avoiding the risk of complicating her situation. Since her condition was stable, the next day she was moved to another ward for observation, where other medical personnel followed up on her case.

He also mentioned that there are cases in which cholera can lead to death in less than 24 hours if it’s not correctly diagnosed (hinting that there are some doctors who aren’t well versed in how to detect the virus due to the variety of its symptoms).

I was thinking about what this person had said, which had me a little worried. Nevertheless, I told myself that if the mass media hadn’t made a fuss about the situation then it probably wasn’t so serious. Surely there had been only three or four cases and an occasional complication due to medical negligence.

That’s what I thought until today, when I get off at the bus station and saw the magnitude of the situation with my own eyes. All the doors were closed except for one that was half opened and guarded by several people. Each person who entered the station was asked to disinfect their hands.

“How awful!” I said to myself, but I was glad that they were taking the appropriate action.

At the same time, though, I regretted the inability of our national press to come up with an effective communications strategy that would plant in the minds of the majority of people the true scale of the existing biological risk, while taking into account the limitations of the nation’s health care system and preventive actions necessary for individuals and in general.

I was talking about what I had seen with a co-worker, who said to me, “Son, the unfortunate thing about all of this is the number of people dying of cholera in this country.”

I replied: “No, I’m sure they’re playing it down so as to prevent panicking the general population. Keep in mind that we’re illiterate wet-behind-the-ear kids unable to distinguish good from bad. That’s the information policy of blah blah blah.”

To change the mood a little, I said in a sarcastic tone: “We’re experiencing the Cuban version of Love in the Time of Cholera. What’s more, we have to reduce the numbers of unemployed people – so what more efficient method is there than that? More! More! We need to get rid of more surplus workers. See…even Mother Nature agrees with that.”

She then replied, “Come on, not even Mother Nature would think of that.”

“Take it easy, I’m just joking. –I said- I think that part of the basic problem with all this is the low perception of risk represented by this disease and our poor culture of hygiene.”

It’s a shame that a society that’s “so educated” is in such an embarrassing situation. I hope that people become aware of what is happening from the institutions charged with ensuring quality health care. I hope they seriously take all the necessary steps so that we can get out of this toilet (full of fetid material) that’s backed up.

No, Cholera isn’t a game.

 


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    As 46 of the 50 states in the US have publicly declared epidemic status of the flu virus which has killed more than 20 young people this season so far, I can’t help but compare how the US has handled this crisis in comparison to Cuba’s cholera outbreak. Here in the US, headlines in all the major newspapers feature stories regarding the flu epidemic. CNN, FOX, MSNBC, CBS, ABC and NBC and others have all reported on the epidemic. Included in their news stories are strategies to avoid getting the flu and how to minimize the effect once you have it. Compare that strategy to the strategy described in this post and others which belie Cuba’s tepid reporting of the cholera outbreak and the regime’s efforts to minimize its effect on the island. While protecting tourism dollars by limiting the dissemination of negative news internationally is reasonable, it should not be at the expense of public health. Shame, shame, shame.

  • Griffin

    The article at Foreign Policy (linked below) describes how cholera was introduced to Haiti by UN troops from Nepal. The disease had not been present in Haiti for a century previously. The UN covered it up because it was politically inconvenient, to devastating consequences.
    Although Cuba is not mentioned in the article, it occurred to me this might be how cholera arrived there, too. Cuba sent hundreds of medical workers to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake where they treated thousands of Haitians. It is possible that the cholera bacteria was brought back to Cuba in the equipment or persons of the Cuban medical teams. If so, this would be a terrible irony, that an act of humanitarianism would would become the source of a cholera epidemic in Cuba.
    Epidemiologists would be able to determine the strain of cholera bacteria turning up in Cuba and if it matched the strain found in Haiti, then the smoking gun would be proven.

    ” “How the U.N. created an epidemic — then covered it up.
    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/01/10/in_the_time_of_cholera

  • Victor Lar

    cholera is not caused by virus, but bacterium