I am going to keep this commentary simple and brief. How many schools have running water at present? What is the age range of those affected children? What are they studying for at school at their current age that sending them home for a period of 7 days as a precautionary measure would be so detrimental?
The protocol that you speak of, do you consider your figures here mentioned a good effort in doing all you could from the first few cases? ‘the virus has spread to 98 schools across the education ministry’s six regions, and affected 313 children. Most of the affected schools (38 with 153 cases), are in St Catherine while………….’ Over what time span has the spread increased from the first case reported?
Healthcare must never be politicised?
No need to close schools
Ministries say institutions following protocol for hand foot and mouth disease
(Jamaica Observer) Saturday, October 03, 2015
Opposition spokesperson on education Senator Kamina Johnson Smith had, on Thursday, said the spread of the virus could have been abated if the education ministry had ordered schools closed as soon as cases were confirmed.
Yesterday, Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites said his ministry was acting on the advice of the Ministry of Health.
“…we stick to our competencies — it would have been premature, and an overreaction to send home children from schools where there was no indication that there was likely to be an outbreak,” said Thwaites who was addressing the ministries of health and education joint press conference in Kingston. “We think balancing the need for school time and following the requirements of the ministry of health, that this is a reasonable response,”
He further explained that closures could only be ordered in cases where over 10 per cent or more of the school population was affected. So far 11 schools have been closed, but two are to be reopened on Monday — Bridgeport Infant School and Reliance Basic school both in Portmore, St Catherine.
According to Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson, as of yesterday the virus has spread to 98 schools across the education ministry’s six regions, and affected 313 children. Most of the affected schools (38 with 153 cases), are in St Catherine while Kingston and St Andrew have 67 reports from 20 schools; St Thomas 11 schools with 39 cases; Portland has reports of 13 cases in 13 schools; and St Ann 17 cases from six schools. St Mary has reported cases, but no number has been specified, while in Westmoreland and St James, nine cases from four and two schools respectively have been reported, and six cases from two schools in St Elizabeth.
Thwaites argued that the education ministry has in fact been proactive from the start of the school year in reminding administrators about the importance of hand-washing and proper hygiene practices.
He commended school officials in the affected institutions for acting quickly to alert the health authorities. “This is the correct thing to do and is in accordance with the protocol that has been established between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education,” he said.
The health minister too defended the actions of his ministry, stating that parish health departments reacted as soon as they received reports from the schools. “Parish health departments have been doing their investigations and follow-up actions in the affected schools…the ministry has also heightened its surveillance system island-wide to ensure that cases are reported in a timely manner,” he said.
Thwaites said that at this point there was no indication that the ministry would have to seek to recoup teaching and learning time lost, as the early childhood curriculum had enough flexibility to allow for adjustments without such direct intervention.
Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Dr Marion Bullock Ducasse explained that laboratory tests are now being carried out to check for the source of the virus, which could have multiple strains given the rapid spread.
She pointed out that in some instances cases were diagnosed to be at least a month old, and explained that hand foot and mouth is a seasonal virus and that data on a virus such as this is not collected routinely. “So we are actively seeking information… it’s not something that we see each year in Jamaica,” she remarked.
The last outbreak of hand foot and mouth disease in the island was in 2012, and before that in 2009. Hand foot and mouth disease is a mild virus for which there is no specific treatment. It mainly affects children under age five, but can affect adults as well. The virus usually runs a course of seven days.