UWI

UWI Regional Task Force on Zika tracks rare neurological disorder

Thomas Langerak, PhD student at Erasmus Medical Centre, Holland, second from right, demonstrates the use of the new Caribbean database for Guillain-Barré syndrome to (L-R) Dr Azad Esack, Consultant, Neurologist, Eric Williams Medical Sciences Centre, Mount Hope (EWMSC); Dr Sherry Sandy, Lecturer in Adult Clinical Medicine at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine (UWI); and Dr Avidesh Panday, Consultant, Neurologist, EWMSC, Mount Hope. The meeting took place at the Adult Medicine Unit, Department of Clinical Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medical Sciences, UWI, September 29, 2016.  
Thomas Langerak, PhD student at Erasmus Medical Centre, Holland, second from right, demonstrates the use of the new Caribbean database for Guillain-Barré syndrome to (L-R) Dr Azad Esack, Consultant, Neurologist, Eric Williams Medical Sciences Centre, Mount Hope (EWMSC); Dr Sherry Sandy, Lecturer in Adult Clinical Medicine at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine (UWI); and Dr Avidesh Panday, Consultant, Neurologist, EWMSC, Mount Hope. The meeting took place at the Adult Medicine Unit, Department of Clinical Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medical Sciences, UWI, September 29, 2016.

(By Gerard Best)

The Caribbean has moved one step closer to uncovering the link between the Zika virus disease and a rare neurological illness.

Once an obscure pathogen, the mosquito-borne Zika virus quickly spread to more than 40 countries in the Americas after an outbreak in northeast Brazil in early 2015. The outbreak could pose an economic burden of $3.5 billion on Latin America and the Caribbean alone, according to a World Bank estimate.

Zika is now widely feared for causing microcephaly—a birth defect in which children have malformed heads and severely stunted brain development. The virus is also linked with an uncommon neurological disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome, which involves extreme muscle weakness and eventual paralysis.

Much is yet to be understood about the syndrome and its link to Zika, in part because it is so rare. A study published in The Lancet in April found “evidence for Zika virus infection causing Guillain-Barré syndrome.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that the Zika virus is “strongly associated” with the syndrome, but has stopped short of declaring it a cause of the condition.

Another study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in August suggests that even asymptomatic Zika infections could bring on Guillain-Barré syndrome. In seven countries that experienced Zika outbreaks, there were also sharp increases in the numbers of people suffering from a form of temporary paralysis. From April 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016, a total of 164,237 confirmed and suspected cases of Zika and 1474 cases of the Guillain-Barré syndrome were reported in Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Suriname and Venezuela.

A new Caribbean-based initiative, launched by The University of the West Indies (UWI) in partnership with the Erasmus Medical Centre in Holland, aims to shed even more light on the relationship between Zika and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Researchers from both institutions are working together to collect data on confirmed Guillain-Barré syndrome patients who are also confirmed Zika patients. The data can be used to generate meaningful insights into how the two illnesses are linked.

“What are the chances that if you have the Zika virus, you will develop Guillain-Barré syndrome? That’s something that we want to know,” said Thomas Langerak, a PhD student in Virology at the Erasmus Medical Centre who is researching the neurological complications of the Zika virus.

In October, Langerak visited the UWI Faculty of Medical Sciences in Mount Hope, Trinidad to meet with neurologists, medical researchers and laboratory technicians interested in collecting data for the international research project.

“We are collecting the data through an online, secure database. Only investigators will be given access to upload and view data. All the data is private and anonymous, and everything is done with the full consent of the patients,” Langerak said.

The project in Trinidad and Tobago is the first step to establishing a Caribbean-wide network of data contributors.

“You need quite a large group to be able to say something about an infection and a complication of the infection. And so, our aim is to collaborate with more Caribbean islands so that we have a larger number of patients involved in the study, so that we can have faster answers and more trustworthy results,” Langerak said.

He added that the Virology Department at Erasmus would be offering to conduct laboratory tests on samples for Zika and the Guillain-Barré syndrome antibodies for any researchers in the Caribbean contributing to the online database.

The launch of the Caribbean Guillain-Barré syndrome database comes a few months after the establishment of the UWI Regional Task Force of Zika, an initiative spearheaded by Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles. The creation of the Task Force is intended to improve information-sharing among Caribbean countries, in order to reduce duplicated effort and maximise scarce resources within the region.

The 11-member Task Force includes Eric van Gorp, a virologist at the Erasmus Medical Centre. Van Gorp was among 70 delegates who met in Bridgetown, Barbados in May to hammer out new ways to harmonise the Caribbean’s response to the Zika virus and other public health emergencies.

The Task Force is chaired by Deputy Principal of The UWI Cave Hill campus and experienced medical researcher, Prof Clive Landis.

“It is our hope that the regional Guillain-Barré Syndrome database will assist Caribbean countries to confirm the association between Zika and adult neurological syndromes and to strengthen the working relationship between The University of the West Indies and the duly designated public health agencies of the region when confronting high-level threats to the region,” Landis said.

More information on the Caribbean Guillain-Barré syndrome database is available on the official UWI Zika Hub at uwi.edu/zika.

Anger management and conflict resolutions workshops begin

OAS Representative in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, Mr. Starret Greene

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts(CUOPM) – A project aimed at addressing anger management and conflict resolutions in the schools in St. Kitts and Nevis was launched on Tuesday.

The project was launched at the University of the West Indies Center, at Fortlands, through the convening of the first of a series of 20 workshops, fifteen (15) to be held in St. Kitts and five (5) to be conducted in Nevis.

The Organization of American States (OAS), through its Special Multilateral Fund of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (FEMCIDI), has teamed up with the Ministry of Education in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis to sponsor a project that will address anger management and conflict resolution issues in schools.

In March of 2010, the OAS approved funding for the implementation of a technical cooperation project entitled “Anger Management and Conflict Resolution Programme in Schools.”

According to the project coordinator, Ms. Jackie Fleming, who is also the Senior Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Education, each workshop would allow for the training of 32 teachers from primary and secondary schools in both St. Kitts and Nevis.

Speaking at the workshop OAS Representative in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, Mr. Starret Greene said the hemispheric organisation “is obligated to help the current generation of young people to be friendly with each other, to be more tolerant, more courteous, and more sensitive to each other’s feelings, to be kinder and gentler, to respect differences in each other and to exhibit a spirit of cooperation and collaboration in their daily interaction.”

The OAS Diplomat also said that “we should continuously exhort young people to reject deviant and anti-social behaviors, not to associate with evil companions and to teach them how to deal with conflicts whenever they arise.”

Minister of Education and Information, Sen. the Hon. Nigel Carty and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Mr. Osmond Petty, also spoke at the event.

Participants in the workshop included high ranking education officials, counselors, principals, and teachers of both primary and secondary schools.

The workshop is being facilitated by Mr. Neilson Waithe of Barbados, who is also the consultant and trainer for the project.

Communique – 41st CXC Meeting in BVI

41st Meeting of the Caribbean Examinations Council

British Virgin Islands

The Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) held its 41st Meeting under the Chairmanship of Professor E Nigel Harris, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies at the Treasure Isle Hotel, British Virgin Islands on 4th December 2009.  The Council last met in the BVI in 1994. The Council recorded its appreciation to the Government and people of the British Virgin Islands for hosting the meeting.

Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony and presentation of awards was held at the HLS Community College’s Auditorium on Thursday 3rd December.

Delivering the feature address, Honourable Andrew Fahie, Minister of Education and Culture in the British Virgin Islands said CXC is a very significant institution in the Caribbean region. He said for CXC to remain relevant it must constantly review its processes and ensure its examinations meet the needs of the region.

“You must use knowledge to transform the region,” Minister Fahie told the 15 regional top awardees. “There is a difference between getting an education and being educated; seek to be educated,” he stated.

The Minister told the students to strive for excellence and allow the knowledge gained to lead to action.

Professor Nigel Harris, Chairman of CXC congratulated the award winners and in particularly Queen’s College, Guyana for producing the best overall CSEC candidate for the fourth consecutive year.

Professor Harris, who is also the Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, noted that while CXC is a regional examination body it certifies students for the world.

The Chairman explained that CXC is staying ahead of the curve and maintaining its credibility as it becomes a technology-driven organization.

Top Awards

During the Opening Ceremony held on the night of Thursday, 3rd December, students received awards for outstanding performances in examinations for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).

For CSEC, Kia Persaud from Queen’s College, Guyana, received the award for most outstanding performance overall with Grade I in 14 subjects.

Two other students from Guyana also received awards. Padminee Roshundatt also of Queen’s College received the award for best performance in the Sciences with 14 Grade Is. The award for Business Education went to Sonya Yacoob of the New Amsterdam Multilateral High School with 11 Grade Is.

The award for Humanities went to Jovelle Lewis of Holy Name Convent, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Jovelle achieved nine subjects at Grade I.

Three Jamaican students received awards for outstanding performance at CSEC. Norman Tai of York Castle High School won the award for Technical/Vocation Education with Grade I in nine subjects and a Grade II in one subject. Theresa Cann of Bishop Gibson High School received the award for Visual Arts – 2-Dimensional work; and Shantal Pellington of Excelsior High School received the award for the Best Short Story in the English A examination.

Karishma Dhera of the Government High School, Montserrat won the award for the Visual Arts – 3-Dimensional work.

For CAPE, Rashad Brathwaite of Harrison College, Barbados received the Dennis Irvine award for most outstanding performance overall with 12 Grade Is. Rashad also received awards for outstanding performance in Modern Languages and the Humanities. Another Barbadian, Alisia Sheppard, also from Harrison College, received the award for best performance in Technical Studies.

Four other students from Trinidad and Tobago received awards for outstanding performance at CAPE. Shivana Sharma of Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu School received the award for Business Studies; Chantal Cave of St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain received for the award for Natural Sciences; Kiron Neale of Presentation College, San Fernando received the awards for Environmental Science; and Stuart Deoraj of Presentation College, Chaguanas received the award for Mathematics.

Kenny Huang of Campion College, Jamaica received the award for Information and Communication Technology.

Presentations were also made to Queen’s College, Guyana and Harrison College, Barbados for CSEC and CAPE School of the Year respectively.

Two BVIslanders were honoured at the ceremony; Mrs Jeannie Wheatley, who was a member of the first CSEC English Panel for the 1979 examination, was presented with a gift from CXC as the Council celebrates the 30th Anniversary of offering its first examinations in 1979.

Mrs Valentine Lewis, who has been the CXC Local Registrar in the BVI for 12 years; in education for 42 years, and in the public service for 44 years, was also presented with a gift by Honourable Andrew Fahie on behalf of the Ministry of Education for her outstanding contribution to education.

The Government of Barbados also presented prizes to Rashad Brathwaite and Alisia Sheppard, the two CAPE regional top awardees from Harrison College, Barbados. Dr Idamay Denny, Deputy Chief Education at the Ministry of Education in Barbados, on behalf of the Government of Barbados, presented the two students with cheques for $10, 000.00 and $5,000.00 respectively.

MOU with UWI Open Campus

During the opening ceremony, CXC and The University of the West Indies Open Campus signed a Memorandum of Understanding for collaboration on teacher training.

The MOU provides for the development of an on-line diploma/certificate in education. The certification enables teachers to better delivery CXC syllabuses and the development of content with master teachers and curriculum development specialists.

The collaboration will initially focus on Mathematics and English for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC).

Courtesy Calls

The top students along with a CXC delegation paid courtesy calls on the His Excellency David Pearey, Governor of the BVI; Honourable Dancia Penn, Acting Premier; Mrs V Inez Archibald, Deputy Governor;  and the Honourable Andrew Fahie, Minister of Education and Culture.

Registrar’s Report

Council received the 2009 Annual Report presented by Dr Didacus Jules, CXC Registrar. Dr Jules highlighted the major achievements under the goals of the Strategic Plan 2008 to 2010.

The Council received a report on the achievements of goals outlined in the 2008 – 2010 Strategic Plan. Among the highlights were the increases in candidate and subject entries for CAPE, CCSLC and CSEC May/June examinations in 2009; a four-percent improvement in performance at CSEC; the revision of three CSEC and three CAPE syllabuses; the development of a new syllabus for Additional Mathematics, which will examined for the first time in 2012; and the technological transformation that is taking place at the Council; a pilot project on electronic marking and the formation and work of the Business Development Unit.

Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competence

Council noted that for the third sitting for the Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competence (CCSLC) there was a 300 percent increase in both candidate and subject entries.

Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC)

This was the 30th year the CSEC examinations were being offered. Council received a report on activities hosted to commemorate the milestone.

Thirty three subjects were examined for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) in the May/June examinations. There was a four percent improvement in performance in the May/June sitting.

Candidate entries and subject increased both increased this year. The number of candidate submitting entries this year was 143, 489 compared 143 017 in 2008 and the number of subject entries were 557 425 up from 544 886 last year.

The Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE)

Forty-five Units in 24 subjects were examined. Information Technology Unit 2 was examined for the first time.

The candidate entries increased from 22 782 last year to 24 183 this year and Unit entries increased from 86 360 last year to 93 648 this year.

Caribbean Vocational Qualification

The second Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) certificates were issued this year. Two territories, St Kitts/Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago submitted entries this year.

Three hundred and five CVQs were issued to students from Trinidad and Tobago and 21 were issued to students from St Kitts/Nevis.

Budget

The Council approved the budget for 2010 of 50-million, 304-thousand dollars. The budget provides for key areas such as syllabus development and review, examination preparation and administration, business development, technology renewal, human resource management, research and development and marketing and public relations.

Other Matters

The Council receives tremendous support from the governments of the 16 Participating Territories and from an extensive network of teachers and resource persons from across the region. The Chairman thanked staff and the many people who contributed to the work of the Council and looks forward to their continued support in 2010.

The Chairman expressed special thanks to the Government of the British Virgin Islands for agreeing to host the Council meeting and for the courtesies extended to all delegates.

For further information, please contact Cleveland Sam, Assistant Registrar, Public Information on telephone number (246) 227 1892.

ENDS