The Government of Jamaica is concerned about the serious misunderstandings arising from the events that led to the withdrawal of the Haitian under-17 football team from the CONCACAF tournament being staged in Montego Bay.
The facts are as follows:
1. On their arrival from Haiti at the IAN Jet Centre at the Sangster International Airport on February 3, 2011, members of the contingent were interviewed by public health personnel and provided with Health Alert Cards containing information to assist in detecting the signs and symptoms of communicable diseases of international significance and instructions as to how to obtain medical assistance in the event of illness. This surveillance and screening practice is required by both international and local public health regulations as well as civil aviation rules, given the prevalence of malaria in Haiti and the recent outbreak of cholera.
2. On February 14, 2011, without any notification to local officials, an attempt was made to procure medication for the treatment of malaria from a local pharmacy. This was unsuccessful as the prescription tendered which was issued by the team’s medical doctor did not have the required registration number.
3. Enquiries by local health officials revealed that six members of the contingent were experiencing fever and malaise – one of the early symptoms of malaria. In keeping with established procedures, these persons were taken to the Cornwall Regional Hospital for medical investigation and treatment. Blood tests subsequently confirmed three cases of malaria. Eight other members of the contingent subsequently developed fever symptoms. As a precautionary measure, anti-malaria treatment was administered to all members of the contingent.
4. Officials of the Ministry of Health made every effort to ensure that the members of the Haitian contingent were attended to, in accordance with the health protocols in effect in Jamaica. Care was taken to provide meals for those in quarantine, both at the hospital and in the hotel where they were registered. Regrettablyy, there was resistance and lack of cooperation by some members of the contingent, including one who refused to allow a blood sample to be taken and others who discharged themselves from the hospital before completion of their treatment.
5. In view of all the circumstances including the laboratory confirmation of three cases of malaria, the Ministry of Health recommendedd to CONCACAF officials that in the interest of safeguarding the health of the public and other competing teams, the Haitian team should be withdrawn from the competition. The majority of the contingent returned to Haiti on February 16th via aircraft chartered by CONCACAF while the remaining members departed for other destinations on February 17th.
Jamaica is obliged to maintain heightened surveillance against malaria since the Anopheles mosquito by which it is transmitted is endemic to Jamaica and there is a real danger of transmission of the disease, if the parasite is introduced among the population.
The Government deeply regrets the circumstances that necessitated the withdrawal of the Haitian team from the CONCACAF tournament. We appreciate the disappointment that this has caused. However, the decision was unavoidable and necessary in order to safeguard public health.