JIS News

The Ministry of Health will be embarking on an “intense epidemiological and entomological thrust” to break the chain of transmission of malaria and move the country closer to elimination of the disease.
As contained in a Ministry Paper tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (June 19) by Health Minister, Horace Dalley “the Ministry is hopeful that countries that now require travellers visiting Jamaica to take prophylaxis will rescind this requirement in the next three months.”
According to the document, strengthening the surveillance system and the National Vector Control Programme are high on the list of priorities “to sharpen the tool for early detection and response to outbreaks of this kind in the future.”
A total of 368 cases of malaria in five parishes have been confirmed since the start of the outbreak in November 2006. Kingston and St. Andrew had the most cases with 340, followed by St. Catherine with 21.
A full-scale Ministry response involving active and intense epidemiologic and entomological surveillance brought the outbreak under control. These include early case finding, prompt treatment of cases, continuous vector control, public education, personal and individual protection, and inter-sectoral collaboration and partnerships at the national, regional and international levels.
These initiatives resulted in the overall attack rate in Kingston and St. Andrew falling from 16.8 per 100,000 population at the peak in December 2006, to 1.2 per 100,000 in May 2007. Only one case has been reported for the first two weeks of June.
According to the report, since the outbreak, a total of about 19,440 blood smears have been tested, and results reported within 24 and 28 hours after receipt of specimen in the laboratory, which was a pivotal part of the Malaria Prevention and Control Programme.
In terms of gender and age distribution, 200 males and 168 females were affected. A proportion of 87 per cent of the cases fell in the 10-50 year age group and 97 children contracted the disease. No deaths have been attributed to the outbreak so far.
Noting that many lessons have been learned from the outbreak, Minister Dalley informed that “the matter of eradicating the source of the outbreak is still being pursued.” He added that a source has been postulated and is backed up by DNA testing of the P. falciparum species involved in the outbreak, which matches that found in Haiti.
Jamaica was declared malaria-free in 1965 and prior to the recent outbreak, had remained so for more than 40 years.

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