A nonprofit health care organization will reportedly begin using rapid coronavirus testing in Haiti in order to pinpoint hotspots for the disease and prevent its spread in the Caribbean island nation.
Zanmi Lasante, which is a sister group of Boston-based Partners In Health, responded to a call for increased and faster testing in the country after a request to health officials there to authorize a 15-minute test went unanswered.
“We have a moral obligation to battle this virus and do the best that we can for the people of Haiti,” said Elizabeth Campa, Zanmi Lasante’s senior health and policy adviser told the Miami Herald. “As such, we will begin using the rapid test as a screening mechanism at our health facilities and at the border.”
Health officials in Haiti reported 24 cases of novel coronavirus. Its first death reported Monday, was a 55-year-old man who had no history of travel or underlying health issues, which confirmed community transmission.
The number of cases is low, compared to neighboring country, the Dominican Republic, which has reported 1,488 cases and 68 deaths. But that is likely because of the low number of tests administered. The Dominican Republic has tested more than 4,000 people, while Haiti has only tested 257 people.
However, Dr. Patrick Dely, director of Haiti’s Department of Laboratory and Research Epidemiology, questioned the effectiveness of rapid testing, saying a risk still exists..
“Every country adopts measures that goes with their reality; their means and the resources they have, ” Dely said, noting that 40 percent of positives could be missed. “Your response cannot be based on what you see others are doing.”
Zanmi Lasante’s plan is to employ rapid testing, then transfer those tests over for polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests, which are more accurate, but can take days for results.
But continuing PCR tests only is counterproductive given what Haiti is facing, said Reginald Boulos, a doctor who is also a businessman and former president of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He believes the rapid testing model would work.
“We need to change approach; coronavirus cannot be a clinical approach and this is what we’re doing right now,” Boulos told the Herald. “We need a public health approach in Haiti; not just a clinician to have a nice laboratory being able to do 200 tests after three weeks. What does that say for a country with 10 million people?”
For the latest on the coronavirus, check out BET’s blog on the virus, and contact your local health department or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.