Region Eight village 'in malaria outbreak'
- not so, says vector control director

By Johann Earle
Stabroek News
May 29, 2004

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An outbreak of malaria is said to have gripped the tiny community of Fairview on the Essequibo River.

The situation in the Region Eight village, close to the Iwokrama International Cen-tre's Field Station, is said to have been made worse by the shortage of drugs to treat patients since drugs in the community's health centre have to be thinly spread among patients from other villages.

Sarah George, Fairview's community health worker told Stabroek News on Wednes-day at the village that for the month of May there were 137 positive cases out of a population of 154.

She said that the malaria found among the villagers is of the Plasmodium Vivax type and not Plasmodium Falciparum, which is far more severe and can be deadly, killing within three days.

However, Indal Rambajan, director of the Vector Control Programme says the situation is overstated and there is no outbreak at the moment.

He doubted the figures George provided and said he would get back to the newspaper with the correct information.

He told Stabroek News yesterday there were a few cases two weeks ago but the situation is now under control.

He says George has a microscope and adequate drugs and that another microscopist was sent from Annai with drugs.

He also notes that Fairview has a population of about 115 but because of its location close to the Lethem trail a lot of people pass through there or camp nearby as is the case with workers repairing the road. He says there is no cause for alarm.

Meanwhile, Stabroek News was told while in the village that the Iwokrama station has had to supply drugs to residents while a medex from the centre makes a visit twice a week.

The Iwokrama Field Station's Assistant Adminis-trative Officer, Michael de Mendonca, said Iwokrama is trying to work out a strategy to help the residents and that strategy would be factored into the medex's work plan.

According to him, the problem started about three years ago and it may be due to the influx of visitors to the area.

George said several cases that had been referred to Annai have been returned to the village. She added that apart from Iwokrama no help has really reached the area yet. She recommended fogging but there is a question of costs.

George said that the government also had promised fogging but up to now this has not been done.

But Rambajan told Stabroek News that the ministry does not recommend fogging in the rainy season because it is rarely effective.

George said that when lab technicians were in the village some weeks ago their investigations revealed that many of the cases had occurred in households that accommodated persons passing through the community on their way to mining camps.

According to the health worker, the village has never seen a malaria outbreak of this magnitude.

Iwokrama Medex Bertina Humphrey said that she conducts outreach programmes in the Fairview community and assists in treating mosquito nets. She also looks at other health concerns.

"I teach them on the prevention of malaria and I tell them to crush empty cans and coconut shells and to cover anything that holds water in it," she told Stabroek News.

She has been reporting her findings to health authorities in Lethem.

Humphrey believes that fogging is necessary and said that a shortage of funds is preventing Iwokrama from doing more in this respect.