Health official warns of more severe dengue outbreaks in future
Chief public health inspector for St Catherine, Grayson Hutchinson (left) and chief entomologist in the ministry of health, Sherine Huntley Jones, at a dengue stakeholders meeting in Portmore on Thursday.
Chief entomologist in the Ministry of Health, Sherine Huntley Jones has warned that future outbreaks of dengue fever in Jamaica may be more severe due to more potent strains of the virus.
Jones served the warning Thursday while addressing a dengue stakeholders meeting of the Portmore Municipal Corporation (PMC). The meeting was called to give an update on activities currently underway to tackle the outbreak of dengue fever that is affecting the municipality.
“In the past we would have looked at dengue as something whereby you get a little flu and you feel sick and then you get better, but that is changing,” said Huntley Jones.
“It is changing because we have had four serotypes of dengue circulating in Jamaica," she said.
According to Huntley Jones, most of the population "would have had dengue at least once or twice.
"Once you have had dengue and then you have it a second time, it is likely that you’re going to have the severe form of dengue. So, as time goes by, for dengue, for us in Jamaica and in the Caribbean, we are going to see more hospitalisation and the possibility of more deaths,” she said.
“It means we cannot just lay back as citizens and say that mosquito a government ‘suppen’. We have to take action. We can no longer just pass dengue off as something that we say ‘oh it come every few years and we deal with it.”
Huntley Jones told the meeting that Jamaica is now endemic for three viruses transmitted by the aedes aegypti mosquito – dengue, Chikungunya and the Zika virus, with dengue being the most dangerous of the lot.
The entomologist reiterated that “we can no longer treat dengue as something we can just put on the back burner as history as shown us, from other regions in the world, that with each outbreak that we encounter we see more severe forms and more deaths and that is where Jamaica is heading.”
Thursday’s meeting was attended by political representatives, school principals, citizens association presidents as well as representatives of the public health department and the National Solid Waste Management Authority.
Huntley Jones urged attendees to take the message back to their communities that we cannot allow mosquitoes to breed in and around our homes. And she stressed that the control of mosquito is not only a government responsibility as citizens have a responsibility to protect themselves.
Meanwhile, the Senior Medical Officer (SMO) for St Catherine, Dr Prosper Chen told the meeting that the parish recorded more than 520 notifications for dengue in the month of January alone. She said the worst affected communities were Waterford, Braeton (particularly phase seven), Portsmouth, Greater Portmore, Gregory Park and Christian Pen.
Chen said dengue, Chikungunya and the Zika virus, are now “formidable public health risks that the world is facing.”
The SMO said Jamaica was being affected by dengue type three and also said individuals can get dengue up to four times, with each infection being progressively more severe.