JIS News

With the increase in the number of dengue cases over the past three months, the Government has approved an additional $25 million towards vector control, with focus to be placed on five parishes.
The parishes are St. Catherine, Clarendon, Kingston and St. Andrew and Portland, which according to Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer “have been identified as the most affected by our surveillance and monitoring system”.
The Minister, who was addressing a press conference held on (Oct. 11) at the Ministry to provide an update on vector-borne diseases, said that donor partners have also committed to providing additional resources to assist in vector control activities and the Ministry has stepped up its surveillance for early detection of cases of dengue.
“We have ordered additional test kits for the University Hospital of the West Indies where the laboratory tests are being carried out,” Mr. Spencer said.
He noted that the Ministry has updated medical officers of health on the outbreak and they are in turn sensitizing private physicians on the management of dengue cases.
In addition, the Ministry has increased its public education campaign to assist Jamaicans to identify the symptoms of the disease and how and where they should be seeking treatment. “We are prepared to keep our health centres opened if necessary to handle the increase in cases and to allow access to persons who may be exhibiting the symptoms of the disease,” Mr. Spencer said.
The Ministry’s surveillance and monitoring system has shown that there have been 154 confirmed cases and 975 suspected cases of dengue between the months of July and September. This is the highest number of reported cases since 1998.
“There are reports of five suspected cases of the severe complication of dengue hemorrhagic fever, and we have one confirmed death,” Mr. Spencer informed.In mid-September, the Ministry issued a dengue alert, advising the public of the increase and how to take the necessary precautions.
The Health Minister said that preventing the spread of dengue is going to depend on individual householders and communities removing the breeding sites for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito from their homes, schools, place of work, and community.
“Everyone is urged to inspect his or her home at least once weekly to identify breeding sites of the mosquito. The mosquito breeds in containers that are able to hold water, including rain water, such as drums, tyres, bottles, tins and cans. Efforts must be made by the householder to remove all unwanted containers from their surroundings that will breed mosquitoes,” he stated.
The signs of dengue fever are similar to the flu and include fever, rash, headache, joint and muscle pain, and pain at the back of the eye.
Dengue may also be associated with bleeding that can be life threatening, so anyone with a fever and any form of bleeding (from the nose, gum, and under the skin) should seek medical attention immediately. Persons with the symptoms of dengue should not take Aspirin as this may worsen bleeding.
Even as efforts continue to rid the island of dengue, focus is also being placed on controlling the rat population in the corporate area, and $10 million of the $25 million allocated for vector control, will be used in this effort.
“We have launched a very serious attack on rats; we can ill afford for our children to be exposed to those rats,” Mr. Spencer pointed out.
In the meantime, the Ministry confirmed one new case of malaria on October 9, 2007. The patient is from the Waterhouse community.
“Twenty six contacts of the case have so far been interviewed and blood samples taken from them for malaria testing,” Mr. Spencer said, noting that 33 households in the community have been visited. “In keeping with expert opinion, a search of mosquito breeding sites within a one kilometre radius around the home address of the patient has been done,” he further informed.
He said that as a result of the new case of malaria, the Ministry has stepped up activities in Kingston and St. Andrew, including house-to-house fever surveillance; mosquito control; public education and inter-sectoral collaboration.