Saturday 8 August, 2020

Dengue outbreak over, says Tufton

Jamaica has declared its dengue outbreak over, even as the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) warned recently that the mosquito-borne disease, along with chikungunya and Zika - which are similarly spread - still pose ongoing threats to the Americas region.

The announcement that Jamaica was over its dengue outbreak was made on Tuesday by the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton during his sectoral debate presentation in the House of Representatives.

“I’m happy to announce that based on the most recent data coming out of the national epidemiology unit the dengue outbreak is now officially over,” Tufton said to sustained applause.

He said the achievement was a tribute to the efforts of the government and the renewal of the (vector control) infrastructure including foggers and pick-up trucks.

The minister explained that an outbreak is over when the country is no longer having cases of dengue above the threshold case.

“The last four months we’ve seen below threshold numbers – 37 cases in March, two cases in April, eight cases in May and two cases in June. It’s been a long struggle but the government has given support, the public health team has worked, the infrastructure has responded and we can say Jamaicans are safer as it relates to dengue,” Tufton remarked.

He said the government did the right thing by retooling and retrofitting the vector control unit. He noted that this was necessary as the aedes aegypti mosquito which transmits the dengue virus is endemic to Jamaica and as such “we can’t let down our guard”.

Tufton noted further that as at April, 2020, the results of the vector control intervention for the entire island showed an almost 40 per cent reduction in the presence of the aedes aegypti mosquito.

Despite the success, the health minister said Jamaicans should continue to maintain vigilance in the practice of the measures to remove the mosquito population, including:

- Searching surroundings weekly for breeding sites and destroying them

- Covering water storage containers

- Punching holes in cans and bottles before discarding them

Between 2018 and 2020, some 85 persons died from dengue in Jamaica, according to the official death toll from the health ministry. Up to February 5, one person had died from dengue in 2020.

There were 67 dengue-related deaths in 2019 and over 10,000 people were infected during the outbreak.

Despite the good news for Jamaica on the dengue front, PAHO warned last week that dengue, chikungunya and Zika are proving to be ongoing threats to the Americas region including the Caribbean even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage with no end in sight.

In a statement, PAHO warned Caribbean countries to do more to combat mosquito-borne diseases, especially during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

PAHO said that some 1.6 million cases of dengue were reported in the Americas region between January and May of this year.

“While social distancing measures are in place, households should be encouraged to work together in and around their homes to get rid of stagnant water, reduce and dispose of solid waste, and to ensure proper covering of all water storage containers. These measures can be done as a family activity,” PAHO said in an epidemiological update on dengue and other vector-borne diseases.

It said that in addition to the 1.6 million dengue cases, there were also 37,279 chikungunya cases and 7,452 Zika cases reported.

PAHO’s figures show that 580 people have died from dengue so far in 2020.

It said most cases of dengue in the Americas were from Brazil with 1,040,481 cases, with high dengue incidence rates also reported in Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua and fewer numbers in other Central American and Caribbean countries.

Lynford Simpson

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