U.S. Virgin Islands Governor John deJongh Jr., government officials, and representatives from the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) gathered last week to mark the start of a program that will make sure residents are prepared for climate change. The program, “A Collaborative Response to Public Health Challenges Linked to Climate Change Impacts in the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean,” is funded through a grant from the National Institutes of Health and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities and run by academics and experts from UVI, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the Department of Health. Through various studies, they will try to determine how rising world temperatures will affect the health of the Virgin Islands community and the best way to show citizens how to protect themselves.
UVI Professor Laverne E. Ragster, a biologist, and Professor Sabra Slaughter of the Medical University of South Carolina will head the program. Ragster explains that warmer temperatures, more intense weather activity, and longer periods of rain brought on by climate change could mean an increase in cases of dengue fever, a virus spread by mosquitoes. She also said that warmer sea waters could lead to an increase in cases of ciguatera, an illness contracted by eating contaminated fish. Ciguatera is a marine toxin illness which can result from eating large coral reef fish (such as grouper, red snapper, barracuda and hogfish, among others). Warm water creates a breeding ground for an algae, which, when eaten by fish, makes the fish toxic for humans.
Article on ciguatera (and photo) from http://blogs.courierpostonline.com/fishhead/2009/02/26/bizarre-fish-poisoning-swimming-into-the-us/