Sam Christian speaks to the crowd after he was freed on bail
Sam Christian speaks to the crowd after he was freed on bail

Virus to Take a Thousand in Dominica?

Please pray I'm wrong. Seriously. This novel Coronavirus is dominating the headlines. Tracking its deadly spread is like life imitating art - as in the chillingly prophetic 2011 movie, "Contagion".

The number of cases worldwide is doubling every five days. Why 1000? The mortality rate (in developed countries) is two percent. Factor in our estimated population. Anyone can do the math!

The shocking death of perfectly healthy 33 year old eye doctor Li Wenliang was a worldwide wake-up call. His post on a private chat about a cluster of mystery patients went viral. They were all linked with the Wuhan Seafood & Wildlife Market. Dr. Li was detained and threatened by authorities for "rumour-mongering". Tragically, he contracted the disease on the job and perished just a couple weeks later despite the best care.

Kudos to our own medical professionals who will be on the front lines when the battle likely comes to Dominica. They hit the pulpits this past weekend with practical information on how to avoid contracting and spreading the Coronavirus. Since it is really a kind of flu, warnings against handshakes, hugs and kisses of strangers is no joke. Elbow knock is becoming the preferred greeting.

Just last week I treated a 3 year-old suffering with fever, cough, runny nose and vomiting. His mother carried him in. Apparently he picked up the bug from kindergarten. He bounced back beautifully. But look now his parents developed the same symptoms and needed time off work. This dramatised how difficult it would be to effectively isolate an infected family member if this was actually Coronavirus.

The worse pandemic in history was Spanish flu in 1918. It infected 500 million people worldwide. 50 million died - a 10% mortality. A century later, we know better. And we should do better.

China itself could be a victim given what we know about biological warfare and the medical-industrial complex. Dominicans must be resolute in avoiding xenophobia and safeguard especially our Chinese guests at all costs. One simply has to appreciate China has done some truly impressive things in this fight. At the same time, there are those who are more concerned about propaganda than the safety of their own population.

Case in point: A ship's captain dutifully reported multiple passengers onboard suffering from unspecified 'respiratory disease.' The cruise line understood fully that destination authorities have the solemn responsibility of taking whatever action they seem fit. What is there to hesitate about?

Right now the Caribbean harbours a number of unconfirmed cases. Ports of entry currently quarantine travelers for at least two weeks, monitoring them for symptoms. Test results take that long to come back from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad.

Cancelling the Lunar New Year festivities in China is equivalent to us cancelling Christmas and Carnival combined. Imagine schools and churches closed - for how long? Emo's live interview with our Dominican students in Wuhan grimly illustrated their nightmare reality. Keep them in our prayers.

Should Corona come to the Nature Isle we may suffer an estimated 20 times the number fatalities inflicted by Hurricane Maria. Most of us should survive - by God's grace. But now is the time to strengthen our loved ones immune systems, especially the very young and elderly. Use moringa, ginger, turmeric, garlic, honey and citrus/ Vitamin C more regularly. Stock up on dry goods, sanitizers, bleach, Lysol, masks and the like. Plant plenty itals!

Worries about earthquakes, economy and equal opportunity pale in comparison to this ominous virus threat. This cannot be business as usual. How Dominica does in the coming months depends on you, depends on me. Indeed, if ever there was a time to hope for the best and prepare for the worst - this is it!

(Dr. Sam Christian is a consultant surgeon, general practitioner and health advocate. Tel: 265-0886).