North West still awaits word on mystery deaths

-reports down

Three months after a gastro-like infection surfaced in the North West District and claimed the lives of several persons in the Moruca sub-region, the results of tests conducted on some afflicted persons are still being analyzed.

Dr Narine Singh, Director of the Regional Health Services (RHS) of the Ministry of Health (MoH), told Stabroek News yesterday that the illness “appears to have calm[ed] down,” noting that the department has not received any recent reports of persons being affected by the illness within the Region One area. Singh said the RHS is awaiting a report on the results of tests conducted by the MoH through the National Reference Labora-tory of the Georgetown Public Hospital, where the tests are being analyzed.

He said the cause may be an infectious agent, either causing a viral or bacterial infection but he noted that the test results would give a better indication. He said that in the case of a bacterial infection, a significant amount of time may be expended to carry out such analyses.

In the meantime, the RHS director stated that the department is continuing to monitor the affected region as well as other regions across the country, carrying out what he termed, “continued daily surveillance.” He said the RHS base in Georgetown would generally undertake weekly checks with the various regions but noted that daily checks are currently in place to be on top of health issues across the country.

Residents in the Moruca sub-region, where the cases were prevalent two months ago, told this newspaper recently that there were fewer cases of persons seeking treatment at nearby medical institutions. They said that the present dry weather being experienced in the area may be one of the reasons why the spread of the illness may have abated.

A resident of Santa Rosa told Stabroek News yesterday that the medex who is based at the Kumaka District Hospital in the area had been visiting several areas within the Barama River to carry out medical inspections. At the same time, the resident said that persons in the area are awaiting the results of tests conducted on affected persons by health officers several weeks ago, noting that persons will be better prepared to deal with the illness if its causes are known.

Minister within the MOH, Dr Bheri Ramsarran told Stabroek News late last month that the MoH is examining ways to upgrade the medical capacity of Community Health Workers (CHW) in the region. Ramsarran said that it was discovered, following tests conducted on persons who succumbed to the illness, that most of the deaths were related to dehydration.

He said this was one of the major reasons why the MoH was working on upgrading the standard of the services offered by CHWs in the area.

After the first reports of deaths relating to the illness by this newspaper, the MoH immediately dispatched teams from the RHS to Region One to ascertain the extent and cause of the illness.

Following the earlier deaths of Moruca residents Calvin Charlie, 32; his mother, Helena Charlie, 63; pensioner Albert De La Cruz and a toddler, Troydon Thornhill; residents in the area had expressed concern about the safety of their health. Calvin Charlie’s death, according to a death certificate seen by this newspaper, was as a result of dehydration, even though he had been hospitalized for four days and given IV drips. His mother’s cause of death was listed as a result of diarrhoea and vomiting.

The MoH had disputed the cause of the deaths of De La Cruz and Thornhill, stating that the latter had a kidney problem which led to his death while De La Cruz died after suffering a heart failure. There had also been several deaths at Port Kaituma, as well as cases of persons seeking treatment for the ailment at the Mabaruma District Hospital. RHS teams had fanned out to other areas in the region including Koriabo, in the Mabaruma sub-region, where there were reports of persons suffering from the ailment.

There were also reports of the illness spreading to the Matthews Ridge area, within the Matakai sub-region, including the death of a 20-year-old male who reports indicated, had been suffering from symptoms associated with the illness. Those reports were however dispelled by the MoH.

The RHS Director told Stabroek News earlier that the illness was as a result of the manner in which persons in the area used water sourced from nearby rivers and creeks.

He also said at the time that the root of the problem related to persons in outlying areas being reluctant to seek medical attention at hospitals in the area in a timely manner.

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