Senator uses life-threatening experience to educate residents about rodent-borne disease

Independent Senator Bakesha Francis-James. (Photo courtesy Senator Francis-James)
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By Theresa Goodwin

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A member of the Upper House of Parliament is using a life-threatening experience, which she encountered last October, to educate residents on the importance of thoroughly sanitising items bought at grocery stores or the local market before they are prepared for consumption.

Independent Senator Baskesha Francis-James is also appealing to business owners to ensure that warehouses and storerooms are thoroughly cleaned, sanitised and kept free of rodents and other harmful insects.

Francis-James said she was diagnosed with leptospirosis last year after experiencing severe stomach cramps which she at first thought were “gas pains” that would have subsided after she drank the garlic tea prepared by her sister.

Yesterday, she told Observer media she decided to seek treatment at the Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC) after the pain worsened to the point that it affected her mobility.

“When I got to the hospital, they checked my vitals and realised that something was seriously wrong. I was rushed to the emergency room where they hooked up a lot of things to my chest and immediately gave me IV fluids after discovering that my body was dehydrated,” Francis-James explained.

After completing a series of tests, she said, the doctors made a number of inquiries such as whether or not she had encountered rodents and other insects, what sort of food she had consumed prior, and from where, before they informed her that she had contracted leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals.

“I remember doing a lot of shopping as I was preparing for an Independence school programme and I had checked a number of supermarkets searching for the better deals. I also ate out a couple of times, but I could not specifically remember where I would have contracted this disease from,” Senator Francis-James added.

The senator stated that after conducting independent research she discovered that, based on local records, she was the second person contract the disease locally and the person with the initial diagnosis had died.

Francis-James said she wanted to share her story with the public, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic which already underscores why locals should pay keen attention to practicing and maintaining health and safety standards.

“We need to take better precaution and be very careful when we go to the market that fruits and vegetables are washed after we purchase them,” the senator said.

She also issued a similar caution to businessowners. “You are asking us to wash our hands to come into your facility and to sanitise our hands. We are asking you to ensure that storerooms and other places where products are kept, are clean and rodent free. Make sure these products are cleaned before they are placed on the shelves.”

The wife and mother also expressed gratitude to her husband, family, friends and well-wishers who helped her through the difficult ordeal, especially many who responded to the appeal for blood when she was required to do an emergency blood transfusion at the hospital.

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