PAHO Rep on COVID-19 Caribbean outbreak: “Don’t panic; prepare…”

Story by SHARLENE RAMPERSAD

Dr Eldonna Boisson, Advisor on Disease Surveillance and Epidemiology for PAHO and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Caribbean Sub Region. (Image: PAHO)

While the number of deaths due to COVID-19 worldwide may seem high at this time, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) representative for the Caribbean is urging citizens not to panic.

Speaking on Monday at the T&T Chamber of Commerce’s conference—Combatting COVID-19, Is your workplace ready?—Dr Eldonna Boisson, Advisor on Disease Surveillance and Epidemiology for PAHO and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Caribbean Sub Region, said those numbers must be kept in perspective.

“We have had 5,000 deaths worldwide from COVID but for this flu season, from October to now in the US alone, there have been 11,000 deaths due to influenza, the flu. And this is a good year, some years we have as much as 60,000 deaths,” Boisson said.

She said globally, the number of flu deaths range between 250,000 to 600,000.

“So 5,000, while it may sound big but let’s put it in context—we are saying don’t panic, this is a relatively mild disease compared to others.”

But Boisson said preparation is key to avoiding mass breakouts of the virus, which at this time has no cure or vaccine.

She said China, where the virus was originally detected in December 2019, saw a spike in infections and deaths because their doctors were unaware of how to diagnose and treat with the virus in the initial stages of the outbreak.

She said T&T has the benefit of learning from China and other countries now that the virus has been detected here.

“Please don’t be alarmed—we expect more cases, we are not living in a bubble—but what we are trying to do is protect ourselves so our curve doesn’t look like this (high) in terms of numbers but it is small.”

She said as well as preventing the rapid spread of the virus, T&T’s healthcare system needs to be prepared to provide services to those most susceptible to the virus.

“Our doctors, nurses, healthcare providers they know how to treat pneumonia, they have facilities to treat pneumonia, they want to try to protect those most susceptible to make sure those numbers are small and save those services just for them, ” she said.