Low Dependence on lab diagnosis for Dengue; Early Treatment is Key

The Ministry of Health and Wellness is aware that there have been several statements concerning the shortage of Dengue Rapid test kits in the country. The Ministry would like to advise the public that this shortage does not affect the testing by the Ministry of samples that are sent to the National Public Health Laboratory.  These samples are tested either at the National Public Health Laboratory in Jamaica or at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) using the World Health Organization/ Pan American Health Organization (WHO/PAHO) recommended methods of testing.

Chief Medical Officer for Jamaica, Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie notes, “The Dengue test kits that are being used in the private sector must be interpreted with caution as the timing of Dengue tests are key to the detection of the virus or the immune response caused by Dengue. The Ministry has not utilized these rapid test kits for testing as there is considerable variability in the sensitivity and specificity of the kits.”

The Ministry further advises that the treatment of Dengue Fever is not dependent on a positive or negative test. “All persons who display symptoms of Dengue are to be treated and managed according to the symptoms that are present. All precautions are to be taken and patients and their caregivers should be advised appropriately to look for warning signs of severe dengue and take action as necessary,” Dr. Bisasor McKenzie, further cautioned.  

The Ministry wishes to remind persons that there is no specific cure for Dengue. Additionally, the laboratory diagnosis is not needed for treatment.  Treatment is determined based on symptoms and signs that are present.

Laboratory testing during an outbreak is done periodically to determine the type of dengue virus that is circulating and to detect if a new virus is also causing the disease. “Early treatment of Dengue is key. This is not dependent on a laboratory diagnosis. Members of the public are to visit their doctor or health centre and health care workers must focus on the symptoms to make the diagnosis and treat accordingly.” Dr. Bisasor McKenzie added.