The CAREC story. The Caribbean Epidemiology Centre: Contributions to Public Health 1975-2012
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[Introduction]: The Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) was established in January 1975 succeeding the Trinidad Regional Virus Laboratory (TRVL). The TRVL itself was established in 1952 by the Rockefeller Foundation in partnership with the Trinidad and Tobago Government. TRVL was engaged in much work on insect, tick and mite transmitted viruses, commonly called arboviruses. There was also great focus on yellow fever, and Mayaro and Oropouche viruses, which were new to science at that time, and had been isolated at TRVL. In the latter years work expanded to include respiratory and enteroviruses, such as poliomyelitis. TRVL also provided assistance to the veterinarians in isolating the virus of Newcastle disease in chickens. Non-viral diseases such as Leptospira, Toxoplasma and Trypanosoma were also investigated. Shortly thereafter, the Commonwealth Caribbean Countries and the Ministry of Overseas Development of the United Kingdom Government became associated with this effort and contributed financially to the work of TRVL. The TRVL was originally housed in one of the World War II army barracks on the waterfront of Port of Spain. It was administered by the Rockefeller Foundation with one of its staff members, Dr Wilbur G Downs, as its Director. The Rockefeller Foundation had spent many years studying yellow fever in the field and laboratory and made many discoveries on the natural history of yellow fever. The Rockefeller Foundation then decided to open field laboratories in selected countries around the world to see if there were other viruses lurking in the environment. They established laboratories in Poona, India; Johannesburg, South Africa; Berkeley, California, USA; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Cali, Colombia; Belem, Brazil and subsequently in Nigeria. Trinidad was selected because it was a tropical island with good air and sea connections to the Caribbean and North and South America. Further, there was a good system of roads, a fairly dependable electricity supply and a promise of a dry-ice factory which was needed to store viruses at extremely low temperatures [...] The transition of TRVL to CAREC was a fast one takingc only two years and five months from conception to actual transfer. Mr K Mohammed, Minister of Health, Trinidad and Tobago, in his inaugural address to the First Council Meeting on 18 April 1975, noting this fast transition stated, “It is also evident that all the persons and organisations concerned, were motivated by a spirit of cooperation and a desire to improve health conditions in our countries and provide necessary training and scientific facilities for the good of our peoples...
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