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Story Highlights

  • Jamaicans have been urged to protect themselves against an emerging vector-borne disease.
  • Ten countries in the region have recorded cases of the Chikungunya virus (commonly called Chick-V), which is transmitted by the aedes aegypti mosquito.
  • The Health Ministry has been putting measures in place for over a year, in anticipation of the possibility of the disease reaching the country.

Region on Alert for New Vector-borne Disease 

Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for Primary Healthcare Infrastructure, Hon. Luther Buchanan, is appealing to Jamaicans to protect themselves against an emerging vector-borne disease.

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), 10 countries in the region have recorded cases of the Chikungunya virus (commonly called Chick-V), which is transmitted by the aedes aegypti mosquito.

Addressing a World Health Day Celebration, at the Black River Methodist Church, in St. Elizabeth, on Monday, April 7, Minister Buchanan noted the economic implications of the disease, should it affect Jamaica.

He added that the Health Ministry has been putting measures in place for over a year, in anticipation of the possibility of the disease reaching the country.

“Training and sensitisation of staff has begun to take place, our surveillance system continues to be strengthened to allow us to quickly detect cases, our vector control programme continues to operate, and we have developed a communication strategy,” Minister Buchanan stated.

He urged persons to destroy mosquito breeding sites, in and around their homes workplaces and communities, adding that everyone has a part to play in the containment of vector-borne diseases.

Making reference to the theme for this year’s World Health Day Celebrations; ‘Vector-borne Diseases, Small Bite: Big Threat’, the State Minister advised that there is no specific treatment for Chick-V, nor is there a vaccine. He therefore stressed the importance of protecting oneself from mosquito bites.

“World Health Day this year is therefore a call to action for every citizen to play their part in reducing the possibility of the spread of vector borne diseases, especially the ones that are of clear and present danger to us,” he emphasised.

Meanwhile, PAHO representative, Dr. Tara Lee Malcolm, pointed out that environmental changes, a massive increase in international travel and trade, changes in agricultural practices, and rapid unplanned urbanisation are causing an increase in the number and spread of many vectors worldwide, and making new groups of people vulnerable.

She said that despite the decline in deaths from vector-borne diseases in recent decades, they continue to cause misery and hardships as a result of illness and disabilities.

The countries in the region where cases of the disease has been recorded are: Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Martin (French), Saint Maarten, St. Barthelemy and St. Kitts. There has been one imported case recorded in Aruba.