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The Ministry of Health is assuring the nation that it is on top of the malaria situation, with Health Minister, Horace Dalley, stating on (Dec. 8) that there was no need for panic.
“We are handling this situation in a very clinical and scientific manner. The nation can be assured that we are going to succeed in halting the chain of transmission of this disease, so there is no need to panic”, he stated.
Minister Dalley, who was addressing a press briefing held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston, stressed that the disease was not spreading and the increase in the number of reported infections was expected.
“It is necessary that the Ministry clarifies that the infection is not spreading. The disease remains confined to the four specific communities. The fact that the number of confirmed cases continues to grow is expected as the Ministry of Health is actively seeking these persons, who may be infected for prompt treatment,” he explained.
According to the Health Minister, most of the 49 cases of the disease have been confirmed in the Kingston 12, 13 and 14 sections of the corporate area. The main communities that are affected are Denham Town, Delacree Park, Trench Town and Tivoli Gardens.
“Approximately half of those definitively diagnosed (23 persons) have been treated and sent home and 22 other persons are still in the hospitals being treated,” Mr. Dalley said.
He noted that the incubation period for the infection was seven to 14 days, which meant that infected persons would not begin to show symptoms of the disease until seven to 14 days after being bitten by the infected female anopheles mosquito.
“Some persons in the affected areas may not yet begin to show signs of the disease if already infected. The Ministry of Health is therefore expecting to uncover more confirmed cases in the ensuring days despite the various mosquito control activities implemented,” Mr. Dalley said.
He informed that the Ministry of Health’s environmental health surveillance teams have been doing detailed combing of the affected communities, in an effort to identify and destroy the breeding sites of the anopheles mosquito.
Seven teams of health workers, totaling approximately 50 persons, have been dispatched to the affected communities to do the necessary vector control work. To date, the team has found and treated more than 400 mosquito breeding sites and these areas include the Marcus Garvey thoroughfare, Industrial Terrace, May Pen cemetery, and the Hartlands and Whitewater areas of St. Catherine.
In addition, the Minister informed, local specialists accompanied by a Pan American Health Organisation expert in entomology, did an aerial reconnaissance of the communities. “The purpose of the exercise was to identify those breeding sites difficult to find from ground level. The result is now being analyzed,” he told journalists.
In the meantime, the Minister announced that the National Public Health Laboratory has been strengthened to cope with the workload and to provide results of smear tests within 24 hours.
“Four new microscopes have been procured for the lab and other infrastructural changes made. Staff have been re-deployed from other institutions such as the University Hospital of the West Indies and the Cornwall Regional Hospital,” Mr. Dalley said.
He further assured that adequate supplies of the medication needed to treat persons infected with the disease were available in the island. “We have in stock adequate supplies of drugs for all the expected cases. We will be increasing this amount by procuring additional stock with funds recently approved by Cabinet, and our international partners such as the Pan American Health Organisation and through the kind assistance of our CARICOM partners, Haiti, Guyana, Suriname and the Bahamas,” he said.
Meanwhile, members of the public are being urged to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from becoming infected. These measures include the use of insect repellents on exposed areas of the body; wearing long sleeved shirts and pants and socks when out at nights; no dark clothing at nights because this colour attracts mosquitoes; closing windows and doors before dark and sleeping under mosquito nets.
To increase public awareness and encourage informed action for the prevention and control of malaria, the Ministry of Health has implemented a comprehensive public education programme.
“Over 2000 households in the infected communities have been empowered with information and medical response,” Mr. Dalley informed, noting that, “radio advertisements are being aired and additional educational literature is being distributed in the electronic and print media.”