|Fake news in Cuba? This is a PAHO chart from 2016 (Source: PAHO/WHO)|
The publication New Scientist reported today in an exclusive report that "thousands of Zika virus cases went unreported in Cuba in 2017, according to an analysis of data on travelers to the Caribbean island. Veiling them may have led to many other cases that year." Founded in 1956, New Scientist is the world’s most popular weekly science and technology magazine. The article should raise concerns for travelers to the island.
The analysis suggests that Zika infections peaked in Cuba in the second half of 2017, at a time when the virus was waning in mainland North and South America. Cuban authorities didn’t follow the agreed practice of notifying the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) of the outbreak. Cuba’s first case of Zika occurred in March 2016. A PAHO report says the country stopped providing updates on Zika in January 2017. In press reports in May 2017, Cuba said that nearly 1900 infections had been detected up to that point. But Nathan Grubaugh at the Yale School of Public Health and his colleagues estimate that the total cases in 2017 alone would have been more than double that at 5700.Meanwhile, Cubanet published an interview today with Cuban independent journalist, Vladimir Turró, who was detained and threatened for attempting to investigate a case of medical negligence in which a baby died in a Cuban hospital. He was arrested Friday at 6:00pm and held until Sunday morning. He was interrogated and threatened constantly to abandon the story.
#CENSURA en #Cuba: El periodista independiente Vladimir Turró, detenido y amenazado por investigar una negligencia médica. #Video. pic.twitter.com/5SoTclVSjl— Cubanet (@CubanetNoticias) January 8, 2019
Vladimir, and potentially his family, are in a dangerous situation. Other journalists have been jailed for months for reporting on health threats in Cuba. Independent journalist, Calixto Martinez, who reported on a cholera outbreak in Cuba on July 13, 2012, was imprisoned in September of 2012 in horrible conditions and only released in April of 2013 after Amnesty International had declared him a prisoner of conscience in January of 2013 and campaigned for his release. His offense? Informing the public about the Cholera threat and the poor government response.
|Calixto Martinez jailed for 7 months for report on Cholera outbreak|
|Official press announces no dengue epidemic in Cuba|
"Consider that 3.5 million people visited Cuba in 2015 and tourism to the island in 2016 so far is 15 percent higher than last year. The crisis in Venezuela is impacting Cuba economically making tourism a priority source of hard income. In the past the regime has demonstrated a resistance to reporting or it has under-reported on the outbreaks of diseases in the island. The trouble is that the lack of transparency and the spread of the virus will pose a danger to tourists visiting the island who not being advised of the danger may return home as asymptomatic carriers of the virus spreading it in their country unknowingly."On September 2, 2016 the Associated Press in the article "Cuba reports remarkable success in containing Zika virus," said that "six months after President Raul Castro declared war on the Zika virus in Cuba, a militarized nationwide campaign of intensive mosquito spraying, monitoring and quarantine appears to be working. Cuba is among the few countries in the Western Hemisphere that have so far prevented significant spread of the disease blamed for birth defects in thousands of children."
Now we know that the spread of Zika in Cuba peaked in the second half of 2017 and that the outbreak in Cuba was similar to other countries of similar size in 2016. How did they find out, while the Castro regime failed to report?
"The team looked at the travel logs of 184 people who had contracted Zika while abroad and found that 95 per cent had been to Cuba. Such “hidden” outbreaks can spread epidemics to other countries because travelers and health authorities are unaware of the heightened risk of infection, the authors write (bioRxiv, doi.org/czdk)."Tragically, the consequences of this obfuscation of a health threat will become evident as babies, exposed to Zika during pregnancy, are born "with an abnormally small head, a condition known as microcephaly."
|Cholera patients in Cuba (CNN)|
This may also raise new questions on the relationship between PAHO, Cuba and reporting not only on outbreaks but the healthcare statistics that present the regime in a positive light.