Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh, veterinarian, at his offices in Freeport. (Image: SHASTRI BOODAN)

Zoonotic diseases may be making their way into T&T with the illegal immigrants crossing the border, warns a concerned Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh, a former Government minister who is a veterinarian by profession.

Speaking with Guardian Media today, Dr Ramadharsingh said he was very much concerned about the safety of local livestock should these diseases enter the country and become unmanageable.

“There is a variety of zoonotic diseases that can come with persons and if they bring meat products you can also get diseases that can affect the ruminant and livestock,” he said. 

“I know that foot-and-mouth is one of the diseases that we do not have as much as there is in the South American continent,” he noted.

Dr Ramadharsingh told Guardian Media some diseases which can end up in T&T include: Hanta Virus, Yellow Fever, HINI, Viral Hemorrhagic Influenza, Rabies, Yellow Fever and Meningitis.  He said the presence of these diseases would only become noticeable when the numbers rise.

However, the former minister said he was gratified that the authorities were make some efforts to curb the tide of illegal immigrants entering this country.

“We have to keep very secure,” he advises.  “There are many exotic diseases in South America and because of the lack of water and sanitation in some areas, you have diseases emerging that were suppressed previously.”

He added: “We have to be super careful that even as we focus on the challenges of COVID-19 that other [disease] challenges can emerge, which can be a double whammy that we don’t want to deal with.  Some of the re-emerging diseases include SARS, E-Coli 0157, Lyme disease, West Nile Virus, Hanta Virus and Zika Virus.”

Dr Ramadharsingh said during the current state of restrictions, fewer persons are taking their pets for treatment.  He said pets carry many diseases that can spread from animals to human.

He also warns that persons who are weak, old and sick can succumb to zoonotic diseases such as leptospirosis, which can spread from rats and are carried by dogs.