Director, Disease Prevention and Control at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sonia Copeland, says that the Ministry is in a high state of preparedness to detect and treat Dengue Fever, should there be an outbreak.
Her statement follows the reported increase in Dengue Fever cases in a number of Caribbean territories, which has prompted the Ministry of Health (MOH), with the assistance of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), to roll out a Dengue Prevention and Control Public Education programme to heighten awareness of the prevention measures.
Speaking Thursday July 22 at a JIS Think Tank session, Dr. Copeland noted that the Ministry has heightened surveillance activities across the island. Health facilities, she states, are equipped with medication for symptomatic treatment and will be able to deal with possible complications.
Director, Disease Prevention and Control in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sonia Copeland, highlights components of the Dengue Prevention and Control Public Education Programme, as she addressed a Think Tank Session, Thursday (July 22) at the JIS Head Office, Kingston.
“The Ministry has been scaling up surveillance to detect undifferentiated fever, which they cannot attribute to any specific cause, and the Ministry of Health has been sampling specimen for patients to check for Dengue,” she informed.
She noted that new clinicians in the public health system have been trained to identify signs and symptoms of Dengue and treatment protocols. The MOH Official has also highlighted the pivotal role that community participation must play in preventing the spread of the fever.
“Vector Control activity is very expensive and it is labour intensive, and that’s why in many countries the shift is to intensify community participation. It is much more cost effective and sustainable to have persons take care of their immediate environment and reduce the breeding sites,” Dr. Copeland noted.
The Environmental Health Department of the Ministry is working assiduously to ensure control of the breeding sites of the Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes. Reiterating the call for increased community participation, MOH Director of Environmental Health, William Broughton, appealed to persons to regularly inspect their surroundings and destroy any apparent breeding sites.
“People in their homes have a better idea of whats happening on the premises than somebody coming in, so we are encouraging them to search for all the possible places where mosquitoes can breed,” he stated.
Mr. Broughton called on persons to practise preventive measures, such as proper storage of water and garbage disposal measures.
“If you have to store water, store it properly; cover the containers and get rid of solid wastes, especially the tyres, so we won’t have any place for water to collect or mosquitoes to breed,” he said.
He added that fogging of mosquitoes by the Health Departments only “gets rid of mosquitoes on wings.” Persons should therefore assist the health department in finding and destroying breeding sites.
Dengue Fever is caused by a virus transmitted from the aedes aegypti mosquitoes to humans. According to the Director of Disease Prevention and Control, symptoms of the virus vary and include the sudden onset of a very high fever, headache and pain behind the eyes. Persons may also experience non-specific symptoms, such as muscle ache, joint pains and nausea.
Persons who are experiencing such symptoms are advised to visit their health care provider, so that they can be accurately diagnosed.
“When Dengue starts its like any other flu-like illness, so we have to be sure that you are not in danger or that you are not already exhibiting signs of Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever,” Dr. Copeland cautioned.
Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever and Dengue Shock syndrome are two complications of the illness.
The Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever may present with additional symptoms such as bleeding from the gum, nostrils or gastrointestinal bleeding. In the case of Dengue Shock symptoms the patient goes into shock.
“There are two countries very close to Jamaica that are seeing the more severe cases of Dengue – the Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever. They are reporting deaths and they have the highest case fatality rate in the region and they are close to us, so we really have to step up our game and get the community participation that we are asking for,” Dr. Copeland appealed.