Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, says the Government has committed an additional $14 million to tackle the dengue problem, of which $4 million is designed for the health regions, $4 million for public education and $6 million for vector control.
Dr. Ferguson, who was speaking today (October 11), during a press briefing at his downtown Kingston offices, informed that the Government has so far spent $11.5 million as part of its activities to control the spread of the illness.
He noted that of this amount, $3 million was disbursed to the four health regions, while an additional $5 million was used for vector control and $3.5 million went towards public education efforts.
The Minister gave an assurance that the Ministry is doing all it can to limit the outbreak of dengue fever across the island.
He noted that the Government has employed a “joined-up government” approach in an effort to reduce the mosquito population across the island, by working closely with the Ministers of Local Government and Community Development and Transport and Works, as well as the various Mayors, to target important breeding sites.
Dr. Ferguson said the mosquito reduction strategies include the fogging of some 800 communities across the island; source reduction, which involves treatment and destruction of mosquito breeding sites, as well as public education.
He noted that so far some 450 communities have been fogged; over 3,500 premises visited and approximately 5,000 containers inspected. “All containers found to be breeding sites for the aedes aegyti mosquito, which transmits dengue, have been treated,” the Minister said.
He pointed out that the intensified programme is expected to last until December 2012, but will be continued beyond that date if the need arises.
The Minister confirmed an increase in dengue fever cases for this year, noting that as at September 29, there were a total of 1,215 suspected cases, of which 345 had been confirmed. This compared to 887 cases in 2011 and 3,202 in 2010, which had been regarded as an outbreak year.
There have also been five suspected deaths associated with the disease, with one confirmed case, via autopsy. The victim was a 15 year-old male of Kingston and St. Andrew, who also had the sickle cell disease.
Dr. Ferguson said all parishes have been affected to date, with Kingston and St. Andrew showing the highest incidence of the disease, with 599 or 50 per cent of the cases.
The breakdown of suspected cases in the other parishes include: 71 cases in St. Catherine; six in St. Thomas; 19 in Portland; 36 in St. Mary; 67 in St. Ann; 20 in Trelawny; 66 in St. James; 38 in Westmoreland; 24 in Hanover; 30 in St. Elizabeth; Manchester, 128; and Clarendon, 82. There are an additional 29 cases for which no parish has been designated.
In the meantime, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Michael Coombs, called on Jamaicans to play their part in reducing the spread of the disease by destroying the breeding sites of mosquitoes.
"It cannot be overstated that we need the assistance of every householder…in breaking the transmission cycle of this disease by dealing with the vectors, which breeds around your homes," he said.
For his part, Director, Health Promotion and Prevention Branch, MOH, Dr. Kevin Harvey, cautioned that the symptoms of dengue fever often resemble those of other illnesses, including gastroenteritis and influenza.
"Dengue resembles the flu, it has flu-like symptoms, and in fact it can sometimes resemble various other (illnesses), so you have be careful in labelling everything dengue,” he said. “You must (therefore) get a proper assessment from a physician to determine exactly what is going on,” he advised.
· Dengue is a viral infection transmitted by the aedes aegyti mosquito.
· The virus can only be transmitted when the mosquito bites an infected person and then bites someone else.
Symptoms of the illness include: pain behind the eyes; joint and muscle pain; weakness, fever, nausea, swollen lymph nodes, vomiting and possibly a rash.