Sunday, January 13, 2008

See it for yourself

I missed this Herald editorial from last week calling for the Florida law restricting academic travel to Cuba to be overturned in court.

It later occurred to me that an Oklahoma professor who delivered a critical assessment of the Cuban health care system at the University of Miami last week, would not have been able to go to Cuba to do her research had she worked at a Florida state university with that law in effect.

At any rate, the professor, Katherine Hirschfeld, spoke of a dengue epidemic kept “secret” when she was in Cuba – ten years ago. Maybe it was so at the time, but it rings more than a little funny to anyone who lives there or has been there since, and has seen Cuba’s quasi-military anti-dengue campaign in action: announcements in the media, trucks spraying insecticide in the streets, men going door-to-door with shoulder-carried fumigation equipment, leaving a sticker on the door of every apartment they fumigate.

More on Hirschfeld here.


Anonymous said...

I contracted dengue on my first trip to Cuba in 2002. The fever didn't hit me until I'd returned to Boston, and I toughed it out in my own bed. No chance of hospitalization here in the state with the most expensive health care costs in the nation.

As for dengue being a secret in Cuba, there were TV shows about it al the time with what was at that time the ubiquitous El Jefe exhorting people to let the authorities kill the mosquitoes.

My strongest image is that of an Antonov flying low over La Rampa and the Nacional spraying while we 'researchers' and the turistas from everywhere else were sitting by the pool.

My friends in Cuba think there's plenty of room for improvement in the health care system there, though. They report there are fewer physicians than in the past, because they're being shipped out of the country.

Phil Peters said...

Thanks for the story. If you go to the Herald website there's an audio clip of Hirschfeld's interview where she says she forcibly hospitalized, put in a ward with an armed guard at the door, and she "wasn't sure if I would ever get out." So you're lucky.

I agree that in Cuba recently, one of the biggest complaints (from doctors and patients) is that so many doctors are gone and those who remain are stretched thin.

Karamchand said...

No sólo es cierto lo que dice la señora sobre el ocultamiento de las epidemias, sino, que es ya una política gubernamental ocultar estas epidemias. En los dos años anteriores, 2007 y 2006, se produjeron estas epidemias y fueron ocultadas con mayor o menor éxito de los medios de comunicación extranjeros en Cuba. Esto es parte de la política gubernamental en salud que se inició con Balaguer, quien ha hecho un regreso a las posiciones duras y cavernícolas del gobierno, como prohibir la entrada de médicos que han dejado la isla independientemente del motivo o si fue legal o no su dejación, así como impedir la salida de médicos. Han ocurrido epidemias de dengue, eso lo confirmo, y seguirán por el mal estado de diversos sistemas técnicos y gubernamentales, como el de distribución de agua, el sistema de salud, etc.

Alex said...

I thought it was weird as well. I remember multiple media campaigns to erradicate dengue fever and the aedes aegyptis mosquito. Maybe that has changed in recent years (I left in 1992). But my sister is a doctor in Cuba and she has never said anything about keeping dengue epidemics a secret.

What they did try to keep a secret until it blew open because of the sheer number of cases was the strange "neuritis optica" epidemy of the late 90s.