Two schools in Port-of-Spain have been shut down because of several confirmed cases of the chikungunya virus.Sources said that the Newtown Boys' and Girls' RC Schools were closed yesterday so that Port-of-Spain City Corporation officials could deal with the problem.A school source said close to a dozen students from Newtown Girls' and Boys' had complained of flu-like symptoms over the past two weeks and at least four were confirmed cases of ChikV.
The affected students were said to be from the Belmont and Maraval areas. The schools will reopen on Monday.The source said public health inspectors visited both schools on Wednesday and arranged to have them fumigated yesterday and today."We were advised not to report for duty because the schools will need at least two days to air out so we will be going back to classes on Monday," the source said.
Asked whether other schools were affected, the official said that was uncertain."When the health inspectors came they were alarmed at the number of mosquitoes, so they decided to spray today (yesterday). The cycle of spraying is done once a year but this is not sufficient," the source said.The official explained that some students attending the schools came from as far away as Arima and Chaguanas.
"We are concerned that if a better cycle of spraying is not developed then the virus could be spread to other parts of the country," the official said.Both schools are on Maraval Road, Newtown. The boys' school has 700 pupils while 590 students attend the girls' school.
Last week, the executive director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) said the Caribbean must brace for the full impact of the virus. He said with a population of 17 million people, the region was still in the early stages and the "full bloom of chikungunya virus is yet to come."
Authorities: Nobody told us
Contacted yesterday, Lynsley Doodhai, second vice-president of the T&T Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), said he was not aware of the closure of the schools, but said:
"I will advise the teachers that when they meet conditions detrimental to their health and safety, they should leave the affected areas until the necessary work is done so as to ensure their health is not affected."TTUTA president Devanand Sinanan also said he was also unaware of the chikungunya cases.
"We have no official reports. All we are hearing is rumours. Nobody called us to inform us officially. Last week some teachers expressed concern about ChikV but we are guided by the protocols of the Public Health Department," he added.
Saying TTUTA was not in a position to tell schools how to treat with such problems, Sinanan said:
"This must be a decision taken by the County Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) so we are advising that if there is a problem the authorities should liaise with the public health inspectors." He also said it would be irresponsible of him to make pronouncements on the issue without scientific evidence.Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan said yesterday he was unaware that the schools were affected but would investigate.
Contacted after yesterday's Parliament sitting, Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh also said he was unaware of the closures but promised to make some enquiries today.However, he said: "We have to look at the home environment also because it doesn't necessarily mean that students got the virus at school."
Gopeesingh noted that Khan had shown him enquiries from the T&T Guardian on the matter while they were in Parliament, adding that the Health Ministry will take the necessary precautionary actions, including fumigating the schools.