Jamaica Surpasses Epidemic Threshold for Dengue

The Ministry of Health has put Jamaicans on alert, after the dengue virus surpassed the epidemic threshold for the month of December.

“One hundred and twenty three (123) dengue case reports (suspected, presumed and confirmed) were received for the month of December 2018,” Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton told journalists during an emergency press conference on Thursday (January 3).

“This exceeded the outbreak threshold of 96 cases for December – the first month for 2018 in which the number of cases exceeded the outbreak threshold. As at today, 830 reported cases have been classified as suspected, presumed or confirmed,” he added.

Having been concerned about the extent of the increase over the last number of months, the Ministry had put in place a number of response measures, including the extension of the EVC programme to March 2019 to include the employment of an additional 500 temporary workers, who will join the effort to identify and eliminate mosquito breeding sites.

“This is to keep the public safe from vector-borne diseases, including dengue, that are transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito,” the Minister noted.

At the same time, a number of health facilities have had extended opening hours, up to 8:00 PM, including:

 the Stony Hill Health Centre, Olympic Gardens Health Centre, Glen Vincent Health Centre and Slipe Pen Road Comprehensive Health Centre in Kingston and St Andrew;
 the Morant Bay Health Centre in St Thomas;
 the St. Jago Park Health Centre, and Greater Portmore Health Centre in St. Catherine;
 the St. Ann’s Bay Health Centre in St Ann;
 the Annotto Bay, Highgate, Oracabessa and Gayle health centres in St Mary;
 the Mandeville Regional and the Spaulding Health Centre in Manchester;
 the May Pen Health Centre in Clarendon;
 the Montego Bay Type V Health Centre in St James; and
 the Savanna-la-Mar Health Centre in Westmoreland.

An extended public education campaign is also being rolled out, with public service announcements regarding mosquito breeding sites, symptoms of dengue and personal protection tips being shared across media platforms.

Among other things:
• A Dear Doctor Letter has been prepared for dissemination to the field to sensitise physicians and parents regarding the dengue alert;

• A Dear Parent Letter is also being sent to the Ministry of Education for dissemination; and

• The Health Alert Card is to be utilised to inform travellers to the island of dengue fever and the actions to take in the event symptoms develop.

“The Ministry is also working with its regional teams to address the overcrowding at some facilities, including at the Bustamante Hospital for Children,” Tufton noted.

There is, too, increased sessional staff (nurses and doctors) in hospitals’ Accident and Emergency Departments, as well as increased customer service representatives.

“To decrease overcrowding at KPH, St. Joseph’s Hospital and the National Chest Hospital will provide space for overflow. A 20-bed ward is being refurbished at St. Joseph’s Hospital to accommodate this,” the Minister noted.

Framework Agreements are also being investigated with diagnostic and ambulance services to expedite patient management in hospitals.

“Now, in recognition of the threshold being surpassed, we have, in addition, triggered the Emergency Operation Centre and the International Health Regulations Centre, as well as the National Emergency Operations Centre,” Tufton said.

To make it all happen, the Ministry has allocated an additional $250 million while also mobilising additional resources.

For further information, members of the public can contact the Ministry of Health at 888-ONE-LOVE (663-5683).