Lack of garbage collection a serious health hazard

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Dear Editor

The increasing amounts of uncollected rubbish in many parts of the island is a cause for concern to the citizens of Nevis. My worry is not only as a resident but also as a public health doctor of many years experience.

Apart from the very strong offence to the senses(unsightly,smelly) this accumulation over several weeks  poses a number of potentially serious public health problems. There are many hazards  that may result from a failure to adequately and regularly collect and dispose of rubbish,especially in the tropics, such as:-

1. Increased opportunities for rat breeding. Whilst plague is not currently a problem on Nevis, leptospirosis or Weils disease is present on several  neighbouring islands. This bacterial?spirochaetal disease can be very serious and occasionally fatal. It is caught by coming into contact with rat’s urine in contaminated water supplies. The mongoose is also capable of carrying leptospirosis.

2.Increased opportunities for mosquito and fly breeding. Although malaria is no longer present in  most of the Caribbean it can return at any time as the anopheles mosquito is ever present. More importantly the Aedes aegypti vector of yellow fever and dengue fever thrives on domestic accumulations of old tyres, tin cans and other objects that can easily retain small amounts of water. These islands have recently had several serious epidemics of dengue fever, sometimes with fatal results. The common housefly will always find extra opportunities like rubbish to extend its breeding capabilities. It is certainly a cause of some food poisoning outbreaks.

3.Increased opportunities for injury. This is a recognised problem for small children who may innocently play in or around rubbish and pick up injuries from broken glass, tin cans and other sharp objects.

In addition to these potentially serious health issues, if the Nevis Island Administration is genuinely interested in encouraging tourism, then the constant presence of untidy and overflowing rubbish bins is not a good advertisement for this lovely ‘island paradise’.It is a real pleasure to see wild flowers growing by the side of the road and hibiscus, bougainvillia etc. in gardens but distressing  to see so much rubbish in the ghuts and ditches and on the side of the roads.

It is very difficult to encourage people to discard  litter properly and take pride in their surroundings when basic refuse collection is sadly lacking. I have heard  excuses such as ‘ new driver does not know the route’ and ‘problems with the trucks’.Whatever the reason please could the ‘ powers that be’ take some urgent action before the situation gets any worse.

Yours sincerely.

Dr Gordon Avery MB,MD,FFPH.RCP(UK)

Director/Associate Professor (Epidemiology), Leeward Islands Health Research Unit, Medical University of the Americas, Potworks, Nevis

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