The Ministry of Health is reminding Jamaicans to take measures to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes, which can cause dengue.
Dengue is endemic to Jamaica and from time-to-time there is a seasonal increase in the number of reported cases in the country.
Director of the Health Promotion and Protection Branch in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Kevin Harvey, says this usually occurs during the rainy season, which typically leads to an increase in the breeding of mosquitoes.
Laboratory tests have confirmed 180 cases of the disease since the start of the year, out of 472 cases reported to the Ministry of Health.
Dr. Harvey explains some of the suspected cases of dengue turned out to be influenza, which has similar symptoms. A total of 167 cases of dengue were confirmed last year, from 300 suspected cases. "So, there is an increase in the number of lab confirmed cases. But this, we think, is in line with the rainy season and the increase in mosquito activities that we are seeing," Dr. Harvey informs.
He notes that, so far, there have not been any reported deaths from dengue, even though there have been some suspected cases of dengue haemorrhagic fever.
Common symptoms of dengue include sudden onset of high fever with severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle pain, bone or joint pain, and vomiting or feeling nauseous.
"You also could get a rash, which is a red rash, small circular rashes over the body, which can occur and in fact, if this rash or any kind of bleeding occurs, then you have to ensure that you get properly checked because you could get dengue hemorrhagic fever, which will show by bleeding under the skin,” Dr. Harvey says.
Dengue fever is caused by a virus transmitted from the Aedes Aegypti mosquito that can breed easily in and around the home.
One adult Aedes Aegypti mosquito will live for a month and will lay around 300 or more eggs over its lifespan.
“They lay their eggs in water around the house and breed in areas where you have high density of people and feed on the blood from people. If you see potted plants, old tyres, drums that you use to store water, cans, coconut shells; any water that is collected anywhere inside the house or outside the mosquitoes can lay their eggs and breed there,” Dr. Harvey says.
One critical step in reducing the risk of getting dengue is to remove all the possible areas that allow for the breeding of mosquitoes.
Dr. Harvey explains that persons should keep house plants in damp soil instead of water, keep flower pot saucers dry and avoid over watering potted plants, and empty and scrub flower vases twice weekly.
"Sometimes, you may see that these containers are dry, but the mosquito eggs can live for months in the dry container and when they become wet or when the rain falls, the eggs hatch at that time. So, we are not just saying empty the flower base, but scrub the insides to remove any attached egg,” he advises.
Persons are also being advised to keep refrigerator draws dry, punch holes in the bottom of tins before placing them in the garbage, cover trash containers to keep rain water out, and properly cover drums, barrels, tanks, buckets and any other containers used to store water.
Dr. Harvey also recommends that householders repair leaky pipes and outdoor taps, cut grass cut short and keep shrubbery well trimmed so adult mosquitoes will not hide there, and to ensure that drains and ditches are cleared of weeds and trash so water will drain properly.
Commercially available insecticides can be used to spray mosquitoes. Also, mosquito bites can be prevented by using repellent that contains deet.
The Ministry of Health also recommends that persons sleepunder a mosquito net, close windows before it gets dark and open windows and doors during fogging.
In the meantime, Dr. Harvey says dengue fever usual resolves itself within a week, while noting that most people, who have dengue, will only have very mild symptoms.
"We advise that you avoid aspirin as aspirin can also lead to bleeding and thins the blood. Acetaminophen or regular pain killers can be used to help with the pain that you have. Drink lots of fluids and rest, so those are the three main things,” Dr. Harvey advises.