Luis Rondon Paz
HAVANA TIMES — Yesterday morning, while I was going to work and reflecting on life and its peculiarities, I heard a conversation between two people. The volume of their voices made it impossible to ignore, plus the topic of the conversation is what particularly caught my attention.
I paid close attention and was petrified to hear that the “cholera virus” was making its rounds in the city of Havana, spreading at an alarming and aggressive rate.
One of the gentlemen (a doctor, from what I could infer by his white coat) spoke of a patient who had presented a clinically suspicious case.
A heavy set woman in her forties had displayed symptoms of vomiting and semi-soft diarrhea, though it had an acceptable color. The doctor was able to stabilize her, avoiding the risk of complicating her situation. Since her condition was stable, the next day she was moved to another ward for observation, where other medical personnel followed up on her case.
He also mentioned that there are cases in which cholera can lead to death in less than 24 hours if it’s not correctly diagnosed (hinting that there are some doctors who aren’t well versed in how to detect the virus due to the variety of its symptoms).
I was thinking about what this person had said, which had me a little worried. Nevertheless, I told myself that if the mass media hadn’t made a fuss about the situation then it probably wasn’t so serious. Surely there had been only three or four cases and an occasional complication due to medical negligence.
That’s what I thought until today, when I get off at the bus station and saw the magnitude of the situation with my own eyes. All the doors were closed except for one that was half opened and guarded by several people. Each person who entered the station was asked to disinfect their hands.
“How awful!” I said to myself, but I was glad that they were taking the appropriate action.
At the same time, though, I regretted the inability of our national press to come up with an effective communications strategy that would plant in the minds of the majority of people the true scale of the existing biological risk, while taking into account the limitations of the nation’s health care system and preventive actions necessary for individuals and in general.
I was talking about what I had seen with a co-worker, who said to me, “Son, the unfortunate thing about all of this is the number of people dying of cholera in this country.”
I replied: “No, I’m sure they’re playing it down so as to prevent panicking the general population. Keep in mind that we’re illiterate wet-behind-the-ear kids unable to distinguish good from bad. That’s the information policy of blah blah blah.”
To change the mood a little, I said in a sarcastic tone: “We’re experiencing the Cuban version of Love in the Time of Cholera. What’s more, we have to reduce the numbers of unemployed people – so what more efficient method is there than that? More! More! We need to get rid of more surplus workers. See…even Mother Nature agrees with that.”
She then replied, “Come on, not even Mother Nature would think of that.”
“Take it easy, I’m just joking. –I said- I think that part of the basic problem with all this is the low perception of risk represented by this disease and our poor culture of hygiene.”
It’s a shame that a society that’s “so educated” is in such an embarrassing situation. I hope that people become aware of what is happening from the institutions charged with ensuring quality health care. I hope they seriously take all the necessary steps so that we can get out of this toilet (full of fetid material) that’s backed up.
No, Cholera isn’t a game.