Saint Martin is an island in the northeast Caribbean divided between the French Republic (Saint Martin) and the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Sint Maarten). The Dutch side, Sint Maarten, is one of the four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Common diseases in Sint Maarten range from non-communicable to more high-risk communicable diseases.
When traveling to any island or foreign country, the CDC recommends a series of vaccinations to prevent illness from communicable diseases. It is recommended that travelers to Sint Maarten receive these vaccinations:
- Routine vaccines
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Yellow fever
These vaccinations help prevent common diseases in Sint Maarten from spreading to tourists. A non-vaccine-preventable disease that is common is dengue fever. This is a leading cause of febrile illness among travelers from the Caribbean, South America and southeast Asia.
Common diseases in Sint Maarten can be spread by many means. The female Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya. Taking precautions against mosquitoes by using bed nets at night, insect repellent and wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants can prevent these diseases. Zika is especially dangerous for pregnant women, as it can lead to birth defects. Others should use protection when there and home, and while traveling.
According to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), cancer is a non-communicable, common disease in Sint Maarten that causes death. Among females, breast cancer is the most prevalent, followed by cervical cancer. Prostate cancer is the leading cause of death among men, with lung cancer coming in second. Lung cancer is also a contributor to a high number of deaths among women. These cancers can be caused by genetics or environmental factors.
Non-environmental factors such as overeating have led to childhood obesity, which is seen as an epidemic in the youth of Sint Maarten based on the Youth Obesity Research study done in 2010. In 12-17-year-olds, the prevalence of overweight is 39 percent, and of that group, 54 percent are obese. The study also indicated that 60 percent of youths do not participate in sports and rarely consume fruits and vegetables.
The government has declared its aim to ensure that their “education sectors promote programs aimed at providing healthy school meals and promoting healthy eating.” They want to make a difference by promoting physical activity and providing healthy food choices in the schools. In order to achieve this goal, the schools will need to cooperate with the parents and educate them on healthy eating at home as well as at school.
The common diseases in Sint Maarten vary from non-communicable to communicable, to preventable and non-preventable. The good news is that making healthy lifestyle choices and taking the necessary precautions, one can easily avoid disease.
– Stefanie Podosek