The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported that two tourists have contracted malaria after visiting Exuma, leading to increased fears that the recent outbreak of malaria on the island could lead to losses in the country's tourist industry.
The tourists, a Canadian and an American traveler contracted malaria after visiting Great Exuma.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) had advised Canadians traveling to the island to use anti-malarial medication as well as personal insect protective measures against mosquito bites. In the United States the center for disease control last week issued similar advice to American citizens traveling to Exuma.
The PHAC said, 'The agency has been notified of one lab-confirmed case of P. falciparum malaria in a Canadian traveler.' 'In addition, the United States has also reported one case in a returning traveler. Both of these cases traveled to Great Exuma.'
The number of cases that have been reported from Exuma has risen to 16 since the first report of visitors to the island contracting malaria.
As Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcomben called attention to the fogging campaign on Exuma and New Providence, Mr Wilchcombe has said, 'Our job at all times is to be prepared to deal with these circumstances. There is nothing more that you can do when these things happen.
Referring to the impact of these reports on tourism he said, 'I think there will be a tipping point and then I think it's going to go downwards, but I think we are going to be okay.'
Mr Wilchcombe also stated that while Exhuma was affected the entire Bahamas was not and that a full update on the outbreak was expected to be issued today by the Ministry of Health.
The large influx of illegal immigrants into the Bahamas, made especially easy because of the geography of the area has contributed to the outbreak of this disease. Director of Public Health, Dr Baldwin Carey has however categorically denied the claim that anyone with malaria had died.
Nonetheless, residents are alarmed over the emergence of this potentially deadly disease that is not endemic to the Bahamas especially because they do not foresee any immediate end to influx of immigrants.
None of the residents were willing to disclose their names out of fear of having their livelihoods ruined because "Haitians are so intertwined within the communities."
According to chief immigration officer for the island, Eugene Wallace, 'I believe that the trafficking of Haitian nationals here in Exuma is an organized smuggling operation.'