Daniel Benítez (Cafe Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — While the Havana Carnival starts today in the capital, only two weeks before the official start of the 2015 carnival in Holguin, provincial authorities decided to postpone the celebration in view of the critical epidemiological situation faced by the northeastern Cuban city, the provincial government reported.
The drastic measure was announced at noon this past Wednesday by Marcia Agüero, vice-chair of the Provincial Administrative Council. The “popular celebrations,” as the carnival is also referred to in the press, were planned for August 20-23, in a city with a population of around 350,000 inhabitants.
“Provincial authorities have decided to suspend these popular festivities until the hygienic and epidemiological conditions in the city have stabilized,” the official said on the television program En Primer Plano, aired by the local broadcaster Telecristal.
Authorities have not set a new date for the postponed festivities.
A report issued by the Provincial Health Office rates the city’s infestation index at 3.3, a figure well above the 0.05 commonly reported during this time of the year.
Judging from testimonies obtained from residents of Holguin, the situation appears to be more severe than reported by Agüero.
“The situation here has been critical for weeks and everybody knows they’ve declared an outbreak of dengue. There are dozens of people infected,” a municipal employee who spoke with Cafefuerte said, preferring to remain anonymous. “We’ve got an outbreak of Chikungunya and other diseases as well.”
The employee also said that the Lenin Provincial Hospital in Hoguín has practically been taken over by law and order forces, which restrict access by the general public.
Considered the second most important popular festivity in Cuba’s eastern region (after the famous carnival of Santiago de Cuba), hundreds of food vendors, musicians and auxiliary personnel travel to Holguin from several neighboring provinces. If they were infected, they could spread the disease across a country with an already delicate epidemiological situation.
For months, different government entities have fruitlessly tried to eliminate populations of Aedes Aegypti mosquitos, responsible for spreading dengue.
Authorities deployed 450 pest control operators from different municipalities and officials from several institutions for the most recent pest-control operation, in addition to the systematic fumigation of the province’s municipalities and peripheral areas, the official reported.
According to Agüero, one of the factors that impede the eradication of mosquito larvae are the number of homes that remain shut up.
The situation in central Cuba also does not look favorable.
An article published by a Villa Clara journal reports large populations of mosquito larvae in the municipalities of Santa Clara and Sagua la Grande. The situation led to the organization of a hygiene campaign, part of the celebrations for Fidel Castro’s 89th birthday.
The postponement of the Holguin’s carnival takes place at a time when the country is about to welcome researchers and professors from prestigious international institutions, for a scientific symposium aimed at updating professionals with respect to the epidemiological situation of dengue around the world and at the regional level.
The 14th International Dengue Course will be held from August 10 to 21 in Havana. It will be sponsored by the Pedro Kouri Tropical Medicine Institute (IPK) and the Cuban Microbiology and Parasitology Society.
The issues to be addressed at the forum include the clinical management of patients, breakthroughs in dengue research, individual genetics, viruses and carriers, new carrier-control tools and the impact climate change is having on the spread of dengue.
The symposium will see the participation of doctors, virologists, immunologists, sociologists, epidemiologists, entomologists and Cuban and foreign health administrators. A course on mathematical models used in dengue prognoses will be offered during the event.
A workshop on serious cases of dengue and three expert meetings aimed at addressing issues such as the improvement of monitoring and outbreak control systems will also be held.