HEALTH Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said Venezuelans made up the majority of malaria cases imported to TT. He was responding to an urgent question in Senate yesterday from Opposition Senator Wade Mark on measures to avoid a malaria outbreak following a warning issued by Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram about the potential spread of the disease.
Parasram, in a Newsday interview, said with the influx of Venezuelans fleeing their country because of political unrest and seeking asylum in TT, this country could expect an increase in communicable diseases and, for the year, there had been two cases of malaria, both of them Venezuelan. Mark asked if the health ministry was considering placing medical personnel at points of entry to test for malaria. Deyalsingh said this option was considered but was not advisable. He explained testing involved a blood sample and was very invasive, and to test people en masse with blood samples after disembarking from a plane or ship was not done anywhere in the world.
Deyalsingh said there was screening and surveillance at ports of entry, naming the airport, the Port of Port of Spain and Cedros.
He said in July 2018 Cabinet agreed to establish an inter-ministerial committee to respond to the malaria threat. It included the ministries of Health, Finance, Foreign and Caricom Affairs, National Security and Tourism, as well as the Tobago House of Assembly, Caribbean Public Health Agency and the Pan American Health Organisation.
Deyalsingh said the committee had formed strong links with TTV Solnet, an NGO between TT and Venezuelan citizens, and the Living Water Community to reach out to migrant populations, especially the Venezuelans, to identify potential cases of malaria and to treat them. He said bilingual flyers had been done to provide the information to Venezuelans as the majority of imported cases.
In a prepared statement which he did not read, Deyalsingh also said of the 40 laboratory-confirmed cases of malaria in TT in 2018, 38 were imported and of those, 33 were from Venezuela, four from Guyana and one from Ghana. For 2019 there have been four laboratory-confirmed cases, all from Venezuela.
In his response he also reported there was a case in December in Rousillac, and there was perifocal treatment (a chemical control against mosquitoes) for about 250 houses, including inspection and education, residual spraying for 42 houses and ultra-low-volume spraying for 350 houses.