Braving the hard rain, Kelly Alfred, of Ocean City, brought her daughter, Riley Kane, and brother and sister Bob and Olivia Cesari, to see Martin Z. Mollusk. By Donald WittkowskiHmm, we hate to sound crabby, but we think Martin Z. Mollusk may have pulled a fast one Saturday.On a soggy May morning that rained buckets and left everyone soaked, Ocean City’s famous prognosticating hermit crab somehow “saw” his shadow to fulfill his perennial prediction that summer will arrive one week early in the beachfront town.“We see his shadow. Summer is coming early to Ocean City!” exclaimed Michael Hartman, the city’s special events director who had the honor of peeking under Martin’s shell.Normally, Martin’s handlers take him out on the beach for his shadow-spotting duties, but the torrential downpour Saturday forced the ceremony to be moved indoors at the Music Pier.So then, with no sun to speak of and a roof over his head, how did Martin possibly see his shadow?Just in time, a spotlight was turned on in the Music Pier to serve as a substitute for the missing sun and — magically — the crustacean’s shadow came into full view as the crowd looked on in amusement.Michael Hartman, the city’s director of special events, and his assistant, Rachel Ballezzi, spot the hermit crab’s shadow.Martin has been making his comical appearance each May for 44 years. City officials insist he has a perfect record of seeing his shadow every year to portend an early summer.“We’re not guaranteeing he’s going to see his shadow. But if you’re a betting man, I would say Martin’s going to bring summer early. We’re counting on it,” city spokesman Doug Bergen said.Martin, tucked inside his shell, was accompanied by his hermit crab wife, Molly, while making a grand entrance into the Music Pier in a small cage carried by his handlers. He was plunked down on a tiny, bejeweled and seashell-studded throne after he wowed the crowd with his prediction for an early summer.The Martin Z. Mollusk Day spectacle was originally dreamed up in 1974 by Mark Soifer, the city’s former public relations director. It is just one in a series of wacky publicity stunts that Soifer created over the years to draw media coverage and tourists to town.Martin Z. Mollusk is a spoof of Punxsutawney Phil, the Pennsylvania groundhog that emerges from hibernation every February to predict whether there will be six more weeks of winter.From left, Callie Smith, 9, Lily Bechtold, 9, and Kaia Chew, 8, were the winners of a coloring contest.Hartman, who served as emcee for Saturday’s event, somehow maintained a straight face while reading a letter that was purportedly sent by Punxsutawney Phil to Martin wishing him the best of luck. Phil also expressed his hope for a sunny summer, so that he could spend some vacation time on the Ocean City beach.“There is nothing like a getaway to Ocean City, New Jersey,” Hartman said, while reading from Phil’s letter to Martin.The letter, by the way, was signed, “Your friend, Phil.”Punxsutawney Phil is certainly not the only fan of Martin Z. Mollusk. Ocean City school children paid tribute to the hermit crab on Saturday with songs, poetry and a coloring contest. The Ocean City Primary School choir serenaded Martin with a rousing rendition of “The Greatest.” Reagan DeVlieger, 11, a fifth-grader at the Ocean City Intermediate School, recited a special poem in his honor. Students Lily Bechtold, 9, Callie Smith, 9, and Kaia Chew, 8, were the winners of a coloring contest that featured Martin Z. Mollusk-themed drawings.Professional magician Jon Dorenbos, who is also a player with the Philadelphia Eagles, performed a card trick.Perhaps inspired by Martin’s powers of prestidigitation, professional magician Jon Dorenbos also showed up for the ceremony. Dorenbos, who is also a player for the Philadelphia Eagles, performed a mind-blowing card trick while assisted by Cole Watson, 11, an Ocean City fifth-grader.“It was really fascinating, Watson said of the trick. “It was very surprising. I thought it was very enjoyable.”Families attending the event had to brave wind-driven rain that swept down the Boardwalk. Jessica and Andrew Bechtold, of Ocean City, came to see their daughter, Lily, who was one of the winners in the coloring contest, sing in the ceremony.The Bechtolds, who also brought along their 5-year-old daughter, Addison, and 1-year-old son, Penn, said they weren’t going to let the rain spoil their day.“I looked outside at the rain and thought, ‘Hey, let’s do it,’” Jessica Bechtold said. “We dressed the kids in warm clothes and now we’re here.”By the time they ran down the Boardwalk and scurried inside the Music Pier, Ocean City resident Kelly Alfred and her 9-year-old daughter, Riley Kane, were soaked. Riley’s Ocean City friends, Olivia Cesari, 9, and her 9-year-old brother, Bob, also were dripping wet.“Sometimes, we have to make sacrifices,” Alfred said of having to head out in the bad weather.But Bob Cesari didn’t seem to mind the rain. He wanted to see Martin Z. Mollusk, after all.“It’s just rain,” he said. “Why should we be afraid of it? It’s just water.”A few minutes later, Bob and the other smiling children got their reward for enduring the sloppy weather. A costumed version of Martin Z. Mollusk joined them for pictures and high-fives.Protected by an umbrella, 7-year-old Sarah Smith, of Ocean City, peered out at the big waves on a soggy day.
It’s been more than 25 years since the Caribbean reported its last case of indigenous measles. But the risk of imported cases has persisted because measles continues to circulate in countries around the world.To protect its member countries and territories in the region, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recently held a three-day workshop in Jamaica on preparedness and response to imported measles and rubella cases. The trainees were 35 health officers specialized in immunization and/or epidemiology from 25 Caribbean countries and territories.Imported measles can spread quicklyMeasles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world. Just one imported case can cause a local outbreak, which if not controlled can spread quickly and widely. This is what happened in neighboring South and North America over the past two years. Through late September of this year, 11 countries in the hemisphere reported 6,629 confirmed cases of measles, including 72 deaths. Most of the cases were in South America, especially Venezuela and Brazil. “The recent experience of measles outbreaks in Latin America highlights the importance of strengthening not just our surveillance systems and coverage with MMR [measles, mumps and rubella vaccine] but also the rapid response to outbreaks,” said Dr Karen Lewis-Bell, PAHO Regional Advisor on Immunization for the Caribbean.PAHO says Caribbean can cope Since its last indigenous case of measles in 1991, the Caribbean has reported six imported cases in four countries and one import-related case. But given the recent upsurge in cases elsewhere in the Americas and the high increase in infections and extended outbreaks in Europe, PAHO experts and local health authorities want to ensure that the Caribbean is able to cope with any imported cases and forestall any major outbreak.Toward this end, the recent PAHO workshop introduced a newly developed methodology and case study from PAHO’s Immunization Unit. Participating health officers learned procedures and methods for timely reporting and high-quality epidemiological investigation of a measles outbreak; how to implement aggressive outbreak-response measures guided by a thorough field investigation; how to distinguish measles and rubella from arboviral diseases like Zika, dengue and chikungunya; and how to interpret laboratory results for diagnostic confirmation. The workshop also included a simulation exercise based on two hypothetical measles outbreaks, one involving an international traveler and another in a public hospital. Participants learned how to organize themselves into a rapid-response team, conduct an epidemiological investigation of the outbreak, analyze and interpret their findings, and plan a rapid response to the outbreak.“It was an excellent training exercise that has left me feeling much more prepared to respond to an imported case of measles and also better positioned to take steps to improve routine surveillance for measles and rubella,” said Dr Iyanna Wellington, Medical Epidemiologist from Jamaica’s Ministry of Health. “Especially important was placing fever and rash surveillance in the context of multiple circulating viruses that have rash as a clinical manifestation,” she added.PAHO has been organizing similar training on measles outbreak response for its member countries in the Americas since late 2017. In addition to the Caribbean, workshops have been held in El Salvador for the countries of Central America and the Latin Caribbean, in Buenos Aires for the countries of South America, and in seven countries for national capacity-building. PAHO is also engaged in ongoing technical cooperation to strengthen national immunization programs to help its member countries achieve and maintain high rates of vaccination coverage.
The weekly Joy Sports Premier League podcast which goes behind the scenes after every matchday looks at Hearts of Oak’s comeback display, Asante Kotoko’s first win of the season and the aftermath of the game in KumasiAlso in store is the perfect song dedicated to Hearts coack Kenichi Yatshuhashi by the Phobian faithfulsClick to listen to the podcsat presented by Ridwan Ibrahim Asante (@ridwanasante) and produced by Benedict Owusu (@kwesibenedict).https://soundcloud.com/jspl-show/jspls-march-21 –Follow Joy Sports on Twitter: @JoySportsGH. Our hashtag is #JoySports