Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC



Castro Visits Hospitals To Check on Optic Neuritis Patients
Havana Tele Rebelde and Cuba Vision Networks

Report Type:         Daily report             AFS Number:     FL1005003293
Report Number:       FBIS-LAT-93-089          Report Date:    11 May 93
Report Series:       Daily Report             Start Page:     1
Report Division:     CARIBBEAN                End Page:       3
Report Subdivision:  Cuba                     AG File Flag:   
Classification:      UNCLASSIFIED             Language:       Spanish
Document Date:       09 May 93
Report Volume:       Tuesday Vol VI No 089


City/Source of Document:   Havana Tele Rebelde and Cuba Vision Networks 

Report Name:   Latin America 

Headline:   Castro Visits Hospitals To Check on Optic Neuritis Patients 

Author(s):   unidentified reporter in Santiago de Cuba 8 May-recorded] 

Source Line:   FL1005003293 Havana Tele Rebelde and Cuba Vision Networks in
Spanish 1700 GMT 9 May 93 

Subslug:   [Interview with President Fidel Castro by unidentified reporter in
Santiago de Cuba 8 May-recorded] 

FULL TEXT OF ARTICLE: 1.  [Interview with President Fidel Castro by
unidentified reporter in Santiago de Cuba 8 May-recorded] 

2.  [Text] During the afternoon of 8 May, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz
visited two hospitals in Santiago de Cuba to check on the condition of patients
affected by the optic neuropathy. Fidel arrived at 1700 at the Saturnino Lora
Hospital. There, he alked at length with people affected by the epidemic, some
of whom are health care workers. Upon exiting the hospital, Fidel held his
first meeting with the press. 

3.  [Begin recording] [Reporter] There is a lot of speculation in Cuba and
despite the trust the people truly have in our health system, I believe it
would be opportune to have your opinion on this illness and the trust the
people should have. 

4.  [Castro] I am, like the doctors and the research centers, following
everything very closely, gathering all the information and making the greatest
effort we can with the information we have. 

5.  [Reporter] Recently, Cuba asked the international community for help.  What
has been the response? What does Cuba expect? 

6.  [Castro] Well, we have also asked for help from the Pan-American Health
Organization and the WHO, international organizations dedicated to these
activities to support the effort we are making. We expect cooperation in the
scientific sphere and also cooperation with medicine. We have to conduct
thorough research before we can say the final word about all of this. We cannot
say the final word yet. We have to continue studying all the possible causes of
this illness, which is what we are doing. I knew 

that here in Santiago de Cuba, the illness is more acute than in other
provinces, which is why we sent a team of doctors and scientists to carefully
examine all the cases. We wanted to make a trip here, visit the hospital, and
speak with the patients. I have also been told of improving conditions as the
treatment is improving in a noticeable manner. I have talked with many patients
and they are responding to the treatment.  Of course, we are trying to perfect
treatments because this illness behaves in an nomalous manner. It is not
described in books. We are decisively and strongly confronting it. We are
keeping a close tab on everything without wasting a single minute or second.
The best minds in the country are working on this. 

7.  Of course, I believe that what has been published on this issue is correct.
We cannot issue unfounded theories; each theory has to be substantiated by
research. We are confronting the illness and have the positive result that the
patients are responding to treatment. 

8.  [Reporter] Thank you very much commander. Are you continuing your trip? 

9.  [Castro] Yes, I am going to visit other hospitals. I want to know as much
as possible how this entity-as the doctors call it here in Santiago de Cuba-is
evolving. [end recording] 

10.  Fidel is being accompanied by Esteban Lazo, the first secretary of the
Communist Party of Cuba in the province, and Public Health Minister Julio
Tejas. Next, they proceeded to the new general hospital in Santiago de Cuba.
They toured the sections allocated to treat the different clinical
manifestations of this illness, inquired about the health of the patients,
their progress, and the care received. The group also met with Santiago de Cuba
doctors. Afterward, Fidel again talked with the press. 

11.  [Begin recording] [Castro] I wanted to come here because I knew that in
Santiago de Cuba, which was one of the last provinces affected, the illness had
certain particular, peculiar characteristics. We wanted to come personally.  We
have sent doctors. e have paid the greatest attention to the situation in
Santiago de Cuba. There are certain differences here. There are fewer cases of
polyneuritis....[pauses] more polyneuritis and fewer optic neuritis cases. 

12.  We are also studying its possible origins but this will take time. The
best prepared, best trained people in Cuba are studying this, you could say,
are committed to this. They are studying the different theories we have
mentioned in the media: what factors have an influence, if there are factors
that have more influence than others, or if it is the result of several

13.  This topic has to be carefully analyzed to avoid venturing unfounded
theories. Everything has to be studied, all the cases, all the patients. An
infinity of....[pauses] A great diversity of treatments is being tried. They
are using ozone gas, hyperbolic chambers, steroids, and magnetic therapy in
addition to vitamins. Different procedures are being studied to find out which
have the best result in terms of treatment. They are thoroughly studying the
causes; from biological causes, to nutritional and toxic causes. They are being
studied very carefully. The characteristics of this illness are different from
those in the books. It is anomalous. It is strange. 

14.  [Reporter] That is what is perhaps so disconcerting. 

15.  [Castro] Well, it is unlike the cases in the books. It has symptoms that
might make it seem like something else, but in this epidemic form and with
these characteristics, it is not known, which was mentioned in Geneva before
the WHO, of which we asked for support. 

16.  We are not going to be happy with our efforts alone and the effort of our
research centers, and the many trained people we have. We have also asked for
the help of the international community in research as well as in the treatment
of this illness to ind out if this is a new type of illness. We have not been
abel to identify this, based on the professional experience. 

17.  [Reporter] Maybe we can make an effort and it will serve to prevent this
from happening in other countries. 

18.  [Castro] I believe the effort we are making has to help many other
countries. But I do not want to put forth theories because it is under study
and in this sector, each field, biology, toxicity, each field wants to find an
explanation within their field. The work being conducted is very serious and
very organized. The most positive part is the response to treatments. 

19.  I was amazed today at the number of patients that had improved within
three, four, or five days. I found out that many patients are out today and the
condition of many patients improves significantly in four or five days. We also
have to see now if we are experiencing a phenomenon of hyperdiagnosis. We are
also searching for cases. We are not waiting for the patient to come to the
hospital. Family doctors and the whole health system are looking for patients. 

20.  The symptoms are very different. I have talked with dozens of patients
today. I have asked of their symptoms, how it first started. Some experienced
cramps in a leg; others experienced different effects. Yet, others experienced
dizziness. The questions I asked the patients showed me that the symptoms are
different. Every time a symptom appears, they treat it. 

21.  [Reporter] Commander, but anyway Cuba is facing this epidemic under better
conditions than the dengue epidemic? 

22.  [Castro] Well, we have a system....[pauses] Look at this very hospital we
are visiting today. An entirely new 1,000-bed hospital and living conditions of
the [words indistinct]. There are more doctors and more experience, but dengue
was a well known illness, although it had certain strange characteristics. The
appearance of dengue was very strange because at the time there were no dengue
epidemics anywhere else. It was a tremendous battle but the fight now is
harder. It is harder to pinpoint, even harder to diagnose because of all its
different manifestations. We are seeing, however, a reduction in the number of
optic manifestations and an increase in peripheral manifestations. 

23.  We have daily data on every province, case, and hospital.  All the
hospitals are working and making observations and research. The effort here in
Santiago de Cuba is also very interesting. Medical personnel are making a
heroic effort. They are also studying and evaluating....[pauses] There were 11
treatments and now there are about 14.  We are interested in both things, to
prevent, diagnose, know the causes well, and fight the illness, which are the
four factors. 

24.  The entire program of vitamin production was carried out in record time.
Vitamins are always a useful tool.  They are not harmful in case of a toxic
presence, even in case of a viral presence. All this is being studied but we
should not say this. It is not right. It is not prudent to release unfounded
information and theories. We have to be very careful with all of this. This is
being carried out in a very serious manner. 

25.  [Reporter] In the same manner that the people have a lot of trust in the
effort being carried out by the Revolution, trust in the specialists. 

26.  [Castro] This effort is greater than the effort made with the dengue
epidemic; it is much greater. Fortunately, it does not affect children. The
average age is between 25 and 64 years although there are some cases under 25
and some over 64. But this whole thing is being studied. It started with a
number of cases. In the beginning it was a battle waged by public health, by
the Vice Ministry of Epidemiology. As soon as we became aware of its size,
magnitude, and characteristics, we brought in all the resources, research
centers, and hospitals to work on this. It is being said that this is the
greatest effort Cuba is making. The entire pharmaceutical industry is dedicated
to this in addition to our medicine production capacity.  We have been

from 20 to 30 million vitamin pills a day. In truly record time, all the raw
materials were gathered and this preventive treatment was implemented. 

27.  [Reporter] At least here in Santiago de Cuba we are seeing that it gets to
every citizen through the family doctors. 

28.  [Castro] The family doctors and the health system in general. Here, we
have also seen the role of doctors. This illness is a bit disconcerting. We
have to handle it, however, with great calm, serenity, to avoid excessive and
unfounded fears, to avoid psychological effect.  Anyone with a manifestation of
any kind-a pain in a leg or the like-might have a tendency to feel sick. We are
also perfecting the diagnosis methods using equipment developed by us.
Electronic equipment to measure [words