With the country in the midst of a dengue outbreak, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie, is urging public support for the Ministry’s vector control programme.
The programme is aimed at containing and reducing the spread of the vector-borne disease.
Bisasor-McKenzie, notes that while the Ministry heightens interventions such as fogging, clean-up activities and citizen sensitisation to reduce the prevalence of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the disease, public participation is equally critical in curtailing breeding of the vector.
Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie, who emphasised that the disease is “preventable”, argued that “if we can rid our vicinities of all of the breeding sites, then we can decrease the likelihood of [contracting] dengue”.
She was speaking at a recent press briefing at the Ministry’s New Kingston offices.
Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie noted that the mosquito, which has a life span averaging two to four weeks, thrives in damp or wet conditions.
These, she points out, include areas where water accumulates and containers in which the amenity is stored but not properly monitored.
Against this background, the Ministry urges persons to take the following precautionary measures:
• Cover stored water
• Regularly empty and clean containers in which water has accumulated or is being stored
• Punch holes in containers being discarded
• Properly discard refuse that has accumulated
• Keep grass and shrubbery, which can provide havens for mosquitoes, low
• Protect yourselves by wearing long sleeves, especially at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most likely to be active, and
• Use mosquito netting and insect repellents frequently as directed on the containers.
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton told the House of Representatives on Tuesday that up to January 3, there were some 830 suspected or presumed cases of dengue across the island. Of that number, 23 have been confirmed.
The Minister warned that there was likely to be an increase in the number of cases throughout January, before the numbers taper off by March.
He declared the outbreak on January 3, after 123 dengue cases were reported across the island in December, surpassing the epidemic threshold of 96 for that month. He told the House that December was the only month in 2018 that surpassed the threshold for an outbreak to be declared.
In its response, the Health Ministry has allocated $250 million to the response programme and has moved to recruit an additional 500 vector control workers.
Tufton also said clinical staff have been re-sensitised about the management of dengue; emergency departments at hospitals have been bolstered by increased clinical and administrative staff; and sensitisation of all doctors, both private and public, has been conducted.
“The ministry is also increasing available hospital beds by providing the support to open unused wards at St Joseph’s and National Chest hospitals, and we now have extended opening hours at various health centres in anticipation of increased demand on the system,” Tufton said.
He said that an extended public education campaign – launched in May with the observation of Mosquito Awareness Week – has also commenced, and will continue in the coming weeks.
However, the Minister’s statement to the House did not sit well with the Opposition Spokesman on Health, Dr Dayton Campbell, who insisted that Tufton should have been more proactive ahead of declaring an outbreak, as this could have helped to mitigate the challenging situation.