CubaBrief: COVID-19, Cuba’s medical missions, and the ghost of Walter Duranty and fake news

It is difficult to maintain a news bureau in Cuba, and over the years the danger presents itself to working journalists that the compromises made to stay on the island can end up costing more than it is worth. For example, Sarah Marsh, and John Zodzi of Reuters claim in their September 15th article that the Castro regime’s medical missions are due to a “a surplus of doctors trained in deploying abroad and battling infectious disease” and that “Cuba pushes above its weight.”

Pediatric Hospital “Las Católicas” in Havana, Cuba

Pediatric Hospital “Las Católicas” in Havana, Cuba

Meanwhile in Cuba the recurring news over AprilJuly, and September in independent news outlets is that there is a lack of medical personnel in the island and that unqualified personnel are being recruited to treat patients..

There are also reports of lack of medicines, images of filthy hospital spacesvideo of long lines, and photos of patients that appear to have been victims of medical negligence. International reports have emerged that some of the Cuban doctors are not prepared to treat COVID-19.

Daughter protests father's medical care in Cuba, and shares an image of how his arm was sutured.

Daughter protests father’s medical care in Cuba, and shares an image of how his arm was sutured.

Reading both sets of news accounts about Cuba’s healthcare system and medical missions around the world, and they cannot be reconciled. These reports are reminiscent of The New York Times journalist Walter Duranty’s reports on the successes of Soviet agriculture policy in the early 1930s while millions starved because Josef Stalin was exporting grain and letting people in the Soviet Union starve.Thankfully, back then Gareth Jones reported the truth of what was taking place, and today Duranty has become an embarrassing figure for the paper of record, but there was a high price paid by Jones.

Welsh journalist broke story on Russian famine

Welsh journalist broke story on Russian famine

Gareth Jones, a Welsh journalist broke the story on the Ukranian famine on March 29, 1933 despite official denials. Walter Duranty of The New York Times wrote an article a day later rebutting Jones’s claims that was published in the paper of record on March 31, 1933. In the end seven million starved to death in a communist regime manufactured famine in the Ukraine between 1931 and 1933. He was banned from returning to Russia by the Soviet regime. Two years after publishing this story he was murdered in Inner Mongolia on the eve of his 30th birthday by Chinese bandits in what his family believes was a Moscow plot to punish him.

Today, the Castro regime exports doctors abroad for profit, while Cubans suffer a lack of doctors in the island, and the numbers dying as a result remains unknown.

At the same time we have received anecdotal reports that death rates due to COVID-19 in Cuba are being underreported. The Castro regime officially claims that since March 2020 there have been a total of 4,803 COVID-19 cases and 108 coronavirus related deaths in the island. Despite this, there is evidence that all is not well. Back in May 2020, CubaBrief reported on evidence of tens of thousands of COVID-19 in Cuba according to healthcare experts.

Travel between provinces was shut down and a curfew in Havana extended until the end of September. The Miami Herald‘s Nora Gamez reported that repression against independent Cuban journalists worsened as the pandemic spread in the island.

Despite this, tourists returned this past month to Cuba and with it the return of an old mystery, Yahoo News Canada reported on September 12, 2020 that a 69 year old Canadian woman experienced strange symptoms shortly before getting on a flight home from vacation in Cuba. She “started feeling unwell with “generalized weakness, increased sweating, severe nausea, and vomiting,” two hours before her flight was set to depart. While on the plane, more strange symptoms developed, including lethargy, vomiting, and urinary incontinence. Once back in Canada, she was sent to emergency, where she was “stuporous and required intubation”. The case study notes that the woman had no allergies and had nothing concerning in her medical history.  Most of the woman’s test results came back normal, except a CT scan, which revealed her globus pallidi was denser than normal on both sides. That’s the part of the brain that controls conscious movement.” … ” The bizarre illness appeared to be in line with the unusual sickness experienced by American and Canadian diplomats in the Caribbean country, which has been referred to as “Havana Syndrome.”  Questions still surround this syndrome and its cause.

Finally, the claims surrounding Cuban healthcare must be subjected to greater scrutiny for both Cuban and non-Cuban patients.

Reuters, September 12, 2020

Cuba shuts down interprovincial transportation due to new COVID-19 fears

By Reuters Staff HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuban state media reported on Saturday interprovincial transportation would be shut down and a curfew in Havana extended until the end of the month as a surge in COVID-19 cases in the capital spreads to other areas.

While most of the country remains at a new normal with schools and retail activity open, local authorities have been tightening enforcement of wearing masks, social distancing and other measures for fear of spread and imposing quarantines wherever cases appear.

Cuba had mostly contained its novel coronavirus outbreak by the end of June, by isolating patients and contacts, and eased lockdown restrictions.

But it tightened them again in Havana by August and has yet to contain a spike in cases there with around 200 reported over the last week.

There have been smaller outbreaks in a handful of Cuba’s 14 provinces.

Now central Ciego de Avila province has suffered the worst outbreak to date after Havana with cases reaching 28 of 60 reported in the country Saturday. All but a few of the remainder were in Havana.

One hundred patients were moved to a hospital in neighboring Camaguey province from Ciego de Avila on Thursday due to a shortage of hospital space.

In August, a brigade of nurses marched off from eastern Granma province to the capital as if they were some of the 4,000 medical staff sent abroad to battle the pandemic.

While just under 4,700 cases have been reported since the first one in March and only 108 deaths, the U.S. embargoed Caribbean nation has been all but bankrupted by the pandemic’s toll on tourism, remittances, investment and trade.

Economic growth is now forecast to drop by close to 10 percent this year according to various international organizations and there are long lines for basic goods and shortages of certain foods and medicines.

Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-cuba-idUSKBN2630RZ

 

The Miami Herald, September 11, 2020

As pandemic spreads, the Cuban government moves to silence independent journalists

By Nora Gámez Torres

September 11, 2020

When Cuban independent news site 14ymedio recently scooped the government and published the regime’s plans to charge for food in dollars, the news spread like fire on social media, causing waves of disbelief and frustration among Cubans.

Cuba’s head of state, Miguel Díaz-Canel, was furious.

 https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article245596200.html

 

“Havana Syndrome” symptoms identified in Canadian tourist who visited Cuba

Elianna Lev, Yahoo News Canada

September 10, 2020

Passengers board a flight bound for Europe at José Martí International Airport in Havana, Cuba. (Getty)

A case study is detailing the strange symptoms a Canadian woman experienced shortly before getting on a flight home from vacation in Cuba. The bizarre illness appeared to be in line with the unusual sickness experienced by American and Canadian diplomats in the Caribbean country, which has been referred to as “Havana Syndrome”.

The study published in JAMA Neurology describes how the 69-year-old woman started feeling unwell with “generalized weakness, increased sweating, severe nausea, and vomiting,” two hours before her flight was set to depart. While on the plane, more strange symptoms developed, including lethargy, vomiting, and urinary incontinence. Once back in Canada, she was sent to emergency, where she was “stuporous and required intubation”. The case study notes that the woman had no allergies and had nothing concerning in her medical history.

Most of the woman’s test results came back normal, except a CT scan, which revealed her globus pallidi was denser then normal on both sides. That’s the part of the brain that controls conscious movement.

After a few hours, the woman’s consciousness improved spontaneously and she was extubated, in a state described as “alert but disoriented.” The muscles in her face twitched spontaneously and her movements were jerky. 

The patient was eventually diagnosed with organophosphate poisoning, which is generally associated with close contact to dangerous levels of organophosphates. Organophosphates are chemical substances found in insecticides, herbicides, some medications and nerve gases. Organophosphate poisoning can be linked to farm labourers who are exposed to the chemicals at work. However, the researchers noted that Cuba uses “aggressive insecticide fumigation” as a preventative measure against the Zika virus. They also discovered that the woman was the only one in her group to eat a sandwich, which consisted of ham, cheese, lettuce and mayonnaise, and a bottle of water at the airport. About 30 minutes after she ate her meal, the patient began to experience the strange symptoms. 

After the woman was discharged, her symptoms continued. Five months after she was hospitalized, researchers reported that she had ongoing neurological issues, such anorexia, “daily headaches, insomnia, impaired concentration and memory, tinnitus, and unsteadiness.” She also experienced a shortened attention span, executive function and memory issues. 

Researchers confirmed that these symptoms were “consistent with neurocognitive symptoms previously reported among U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Cuba.”  The woman also reported feeling an imbalance in her inner ears, diagnosed as vestibulopathy, which can lead to vertigo.  

“She failed to complete testing for spatial working memory and decision-making quality; both were found to be significantly impaired among Canadian diplomats with suspected acquired neurotoxicity secondary to [organophosphate] poisoning.”

First seen amongst diplomats, families

The so-called “Havana Syndrome” became known as a set of symptoms experienced by U.S. and Canadian diplomats who were stationed in Cuba between 2016 and 2018.

In 2019, 15 Canadians who were based in Cuba — five diplomats along with their children and spouses — sued the federal government for $28 million over the mysterious illness they experienced while stationed there. In a statement filed in federal court, the anonymous plaintiffs allege having “been targeted and injured, suffering severe and traumatic harm by means that are not clear.” They described concussion-like symptoms such as nosebleeds, dizziness, confusion, and headaches.

“My brain just doesn’t work the way it used to,” one woman told CTV News.

“My kids are having nosebleeds,” said another. “My youngest son is passing out for no reason.”

The mysterious illness is believed to be a result of exposure to low-doses of organophosphates.

Cuba responds

On Wednesday, the Cuban ambassador to Canada, Josefina Vidal, released a statement assuring Canadians that the country is safe to visit and the JAMA report refers to “health symptoms reported by a person more than a year ago.”

“Cuba has been and continues to be a safe destination for tourists from all over the world, including Canadians, who have historically shown their preference for an island that offers them, not only natural beauties, a rich culture and a warm and welcoming people, but safety,” the statement reads.

https://news.yahoo.com/havana-syndrome-symptoms-identified-in-canadian-tourist-to-cuba-204030206.html