Dengue Cases Declining


Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, has said that the cases of dengue have been declining, with the Ministry intensifying its efforts to stem the spread of this and other communicable diseases.
“The dengue fever outbreak which started in July last year, peaked in November and since then, has been on the decline. Approximately five suspected cases are now reported weekly from the parishes,” the Minister informed.
He was speaking at a press briefing held at the Ministry’s headquarters in Kingston, yesterday (April 4), where he gave an update on the status of communicable diseases in Jamaica. This comes against the background of the recent Dengue outbreak in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where approximately 49 persons have died from the disease.
Dengue is an infection caused by a virus spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. Persons infected with the virus may develop dengue fever or dengue Haemorrhagic Fever, which is the more severe form of Dengue.
Dengue fever symptoms include high fever, nausea, rashes, backache and headaches.
Mr. Spencer said that the Ministry would be continuing its efforts to reduce incidences of communicable diseases, pointing out that activities in six areas would be intensified. He informed that the parishes of St. Catherine, St. Ann, Clarendon, St. James and Kingston and St. Andrew would be targeted for vector control intervention, including fogging and identifying and treating breeding sites for mosquitoes
“We have heightened surveillance at our ports to interview travellers from countries and areas that are endemic or experiencing an outbreak of Dengue or Yellow Fever (and) we are strengthening inter-sectoral collaboration with entities such as the National Solid Waste Management Authority and the National Works Agency,” he noted.
The Minister also pointed out that public education activities would be increased, “to ensure that individuals and communities are aware of the threat to the public health security and that they are empowered to take the necessary steps to keep their spaces clean.”
Additionally, the Ministry has developed guidelines for travellers and has issued copies to travel agencies and airports.
“We are now sending advisories to our Regions and Medical Officers of Health to heighten control measures including, but not restricted to: vector control; larvicidal and adulticidal interventions; intense surveillance; identifying cases and carrying out the necessary intervention surrounding cases ,and the education of the public,” he informed.
Mr. Spencer explained that the Ministry has continued routine vaccinations against several childhood diseases, such as Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Tetanus (lock jaw), Pertussis (whooping cough), Measles, Rubella (German measles), Mumps and Hepatitis B, adding that there has been no outbreak of these diseases since the start of the year.
He noted too, that no new cases of malaria have been confirmed over the past four weeks since the occurrence of four cases in Christian Pen in St. Catherine, citing that the malaria control work is ongoing in that area.
Among measures being undertaken by the Ministry to control the spread of communicable diseases, include preparing a submission for the approval of Cabinet on the reviewing and strengthening of the National Vector Control programme; and advocating for the establishment of a cross sector implementation team that operates below the level of the Central Board of Health, to ensure that the programme will be given the level of urgent attention that is required to protect the health of the population.
The Minister urged all citizens to do their part in preventing the spread of communicable diseases. He maintained that persons should clean their homes and surroundings to get rid of all possible breeding places for mosquitoes; avoid mosquito bites by wearing adequate (light-coloured) clothing, particularly after dusk, such as long sleeves and pants; get vaccinated and take preventive treatment when travelling to certain countries; wash hands regularly; be careful about the food eaten – ensure that food is hot, well-prepared and well-preserved ; and to practise proper hygiene when coughing or sneezing by covering the nose and mouth.
The press conference comes just ahead of ‘Public Health Week’ to be observed in Jamaica next week, and ‘World Health Day’, themed: ‘Protecting Health from Climate Change’, on Monday, April 7.

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