Wednesday 11 December, 2019

Dengue-related deaths almost double this year as rainy season deepens

There have been 88 dengue-related deaths this year, almost double the reported confirmed deaths for the disease in 2018 - and there are still three months left to go in the year.

For the period January 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019, there were 135 suspected and confirmed dengue-related deaths, according to Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton.

He said that 47 deaths were reported in 2018, while 88 occurred in 2019. Of that number, he said 10 occurred in September which is historically a month that is a harbinger of hurricanes and inclement weather.

During Tuesday's sitting of the House of Representatives, Tufton noted that despite the efforts of the Government, the reduction in the number of cases has not been sustained sufficiently below the epidemic threshold. He pointed out that, after a dengue outbreak was declared in January, there was a “steady decline in the number of cases reported between January and June.”

However, there was an uptick in the number of cases in July and, as at August 28, 2019, some 4,400 presumed, suspected and confirmed cases of dengue were reported.

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The government has committed to spending $350 million to fight the mosquito-borne virus.

"Since January 2019, the ministry has intensified its dengue prevention and control activities, with further intensification in July and again in September. Response activities involved strengthening surveillance case management and vector control management. The vector control management strategy includes strengthening human resource capacity and supporting efforts to decrease the the Aedes Aegypti mosquito island wide," Tufton said.

More than 20 health centres and clinics islandwide continue to operate under extended work hours, until 10 pm, to accommodate persons and free up space in emergency units at public hospitals, Tufton revealed.
 
During Tuesday afternoon's sitting, the Health Minister declared that the country is now in a period of high alert as the rainy season will result in increased cases.
 
He said the ministry has activated the National Emergency Response Centre and funds have been allocated to drive the ministry's response up to the end of the year.
 
Tufton urged Jamaicans to actively work to prevent infection, pointing out that more than 70 per cent of the time, mosquito breeding sites are found in or around the home.

He also encouraged persons to see their doctor immediately after experiencing early warning signs or symptoms, to reduce the risk of severe dengue.    
 
The Health Minister also said climate change is resulting in more aggressive strains of the dengue virus, which has been exacerbated by the drought affecting Jamaica as well as the recent period of rainfall. 

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