MOHW moves to prevent dengue outbreak
Vector control project gets $200-m injection
WITH YESTERDAY’S announcement of the possibility that Jamaica may face a dengue outbreak amid an increase in cases, the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) says additional funding of $200 million allocated by the National Health Fund will help enhance its vector control programme and stem the likelihood of an outbreak later in the year.
Dr Christopher Tufton, at the ministry’s quarterly press conference yesterday, said that the funds would assist in facilitating the removal of bulky waste and conducting drain-cleaning exercises across the country.
Part of the funds will also be shared with the local government ministry, to be distributed across the nation’s 63 constituencies.
This is to mobilise public education efforts and to assist in identifying vulnerable areas, so that work can be done with other agencies to eradicate breeding sites.
Additionally, Tufton said 500 temporary vector control workers have already been engaged since the July commencement of the programme, adding that the number of workers would increase, depending on the epidemiological situation.
As of Monday, there have been 316 suspected, presumed, and confirmed dengue cases across the island.
This is significantly more when compared to the corresponding period in 2022.
According to the MOHW’s National Surveillance Unit, for the same period last year, the country recorded 65 instances of the mosquito-borne disease, making the figure seen in 2023 an almost fivefold increase.
Based on laboratory results, there has been a total of 39 positive cases, 38 of which were identified as Dengue Serotype 2 and one case identified as Dengue Serotype 4.
“It is important to highlight that, of the 39 confirmed cases of dengue, a total of 20 belong in the five- to 14-year-old age group ... and so part of the call from the Ministry of Health is to encourage parents to treat children who have a fever with paracetamol and to avoid aspirin and aspirin-like medication such as ibuprofen and diclofenac,” Tufton said.
He noted that while all parishes have had cases of dengue reported, the confirmed cases were detected in the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew, St Thomas, St Catherine, Westmoreland, Portland, and St Ann.
Fogging activities, he said, have been extended to seven days per week and officers are working on the weekends to revisit the areas that are not accessible during the weekdays.
“Fogging is a big part of the response but I will emphasise that fogging only takes care of the situation in a temporary way if breeding sites continue to exist, which is why we have to search and destroy breeding sites,” he said, noting that the ministry has adequate stock levels of insecticide in place in the event of an outbreak, while replacement stock is also being procured.
Speaking specifically to the Portmore, St Catherine area, which is typically found to have a high population of mosquitoes and numerous breeding sites, Sherine Huntley Jones, medical entomologist at the MOHW, stated that those mosquitoes found were not the Aedes Aegypti which spreads dengue to humans.
Instead, they are known to be nuisance mosquitoes which bite humans but do not spread germs.
“As it relates to areas that are high indexes, currently, we have about four parishes that we are focusing on; St Ann, Portland, St Catherine and Kingston and St Andrew,” she said
She added that high index areas were ones found to have high numbers of water storage.
“So, we have some communities that do not have piped water and so those persons have to store water in drums, and it is in those areas in particular that we find our high indexes,” she added.
She recalled where, in one St Catherine community, there was a home that had up to 21 drums filled with water and, upon the team’s visit, they found that all the drums had become breeding sites.
Huntley Jones asserted that the onus remained with households to search and destroy breeding sites.
“Because, you can imagine, once the team goes in and treat those drums – we’ve been having rains, so the treatment washes out and sometimes the householder uses the drum and turn over the water. So we have to return to treat, and so we really want to emphasise to the householder their responsibility,” she said.