The Ministry of Health & Wellness pleased to publish another Vitals Report. Our focus for this issue is the Dengue Outbreak of 2018/19/20. Dengue is the fastest spreading mosquito-borne viral disease in the world and in the last 50 years, incidences have increased 30 times, being estimated at 390 million cases per year, with 96 million cases manifesting symptoms. This viral infection is endemic in over 100 countries including Jamaica, with frequent outbreaks.
In this edition of Vitals, we examine Jamaica’s situation, where we found ourselves in a pandemic, as declared by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) that had affected the Latin America and Caribbean Region with more than 2 Million cases and some 800 deaths in the first seven months of 2019. The number of cases reported in 2019 was higher than the annual totals reported ever before in the Region of the Americas.
As part of our response, the Ministry of Health & Wellness stepped up its enhanced vector control programme including:
- Employment of 1,000 temporary Vector Control Workers to do public education and “search and destroy” activities in communities to eliminate breeding sites;
- Expansion of the islandwide Fogging Programme to kill the adult mosquitos in high-risk and other communities;
- Launch of an enhanced multiplatform Public Education Campaign to educate and inform all members of the public on how to decrease their risk and treat the illness if they are infected.
The country’s enhanced intervention also included a multi-sectoral/agency response, through the establishment of a National Dengue Coordination Committee and a $1 Billion Dollar investment. This investment included but was not limited to the purchase of additional vehicles and
fogging machines and the allocation of resources to leaders and entities at the community, parish and national levels.
As we review, I want to thank the entire public health infrastructure for its focused attention to prevent, control and treat dengue. We must remember that dengue is endemic and as such it is necessary that persons continue to maintain the vigilance in the practice of the measures to reduce the mosquito population, including searching their surroundings weekly for breeding sites and destroying them; covering water-storage containers; and punching holes in cans and bottles before discarding them.
One of the many lessons from this Dengue outbreak – collaboration, together with communication and emphasising the need for individual responsibility in health- is one that should become a staple in the country’s approach to managing new and emerging diseases and outbreaks.