- Response Plan Activated
KINGSTON, Jamaica. Saturday, September 23, 2023: The Ministry of Health & Wellness has declared an outbreak of Dengue for Jamaica. The outbreak comes as the Ministry’s National Surveillance Unit advised that Jamaica has surpassed the Dengue epidemic threshold for July and August and is on a trajectory to do the same for the month of September. This means, the country has seen an increase in the number of cases compared to what is normally seen during these months of the year.
As of Friday, September 22, 2023, the country had recorded 565 suspected, presumed and confirmed cases of Dengue. Of that number, 78 cases had been confirmed with majority of the cases seen in Kingston & St. Andrew, St. Catherine and St. Thomas. The dominant strain is Dengue Type 2, which last predominated in 2010. There are no Dengue-related deaths classified at this time, however, six deaths are being investigated.
Treatment for Dengue
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease that is usually a mild illness in which a person may get a fever, headache, joint, and muscle pains. Rest and adequate hydration are usually enough to see one through the period of illness. The recommended treatment for the fever is acetaminophen/paracetamol.
The Ministry urges members of the public not to use aspirin, diclofenac, ibuprofen, or any of the medications/pain relievers known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These drugs, when used to treat the fever in Dengue, have been known to increase the severity of the disease.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie has cautioned that “on occasions the illness can progress to Severe Dengue, which can result in organ failure as well as bleeding (haemorrhage), and severe fluid depletion that can lead to shock and death.”
“Persons experiencing fever, vomiting, severe abdominal pain, bleeding under the skin (petechial rash), feeling very weak, or getting confused, are to seek immediate medical attention,” the CMO added.
Additional Vector Control Activities
Meanwhile, approximately 500 temporary vector control workers have been engaged and deployed across the island to high-risk communities along with 213 permanent workers. An additionally 600 temporary workers will now be engaged to increase the search & destroy and health education activities.
Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Hon. Christopher Tufton noted that “The Ministry and the Regional Health Authorities have made the necessary preparations for a possible outbreak. Since 2019 the Government of Jamaica, through the Ministry of Health & Wellness has made significant investments in the vector control programme with over J$300M in acquisition of vehicles, fogging machines and the expansion of the number of staff dedicated to the vector management programme.”
The Ministry, through resources from the National Health Fund, will expand the community strategies through the engagement of all stakeholders at the community level. This engagement will involve the provision of resources to undertake Dengue mitigation strategies. These activities will include support for the removal of bulky waste and drain-cleaning exercises across the country.
Since July 2023, the parish health departments have been engaged in enhanced fogging and treatment of breeding sites. This has resulted in a 7-day extended work week for fogging and other mosquito eradication activities by the team.
The Ministry will also extend opening hours for all Type 3–5 Health Centres to 8:00 p.m. starting Monday, October 2, 2023. This is to facilitate people visiting these facilities to receive treatment and referrals where necessary.
Additionally, as of Monday, October 2, 2023, children under the age of 18 years who visit the University Hospital of the West Indies will not be charged a fee or be required to pay for services at the facility.
The National Emergency Operations Centre, as well as the emergency operations centres in all parishes will be activated as of Monday, September 25, 2023. These centres will monitor and report on all facets of the outbreak with a view to minimizing the cases across the island.
The public is advised that the Aedes aegypti mosquito breeds in any containerized environment; that is in anything that can hold water. Some of the common breeding sites for the Aedes aaegypti mosquito are drums, tyres, buckets, and animal feeding containers.
Persons are urged to play their part in ensuring that the cases are minimised by monitoring water storage containers for mosquito breeding; keeping surroundings free of debris; destroying or treating potential mosquito breeding sites; wearing protective clothing; using a DEET-containing mosquito repellant and, as much as possible, staying indoors at dusk with windows and doors closed.