Residents of Linstead and other parts of St. Catherine are being urged to become more proactive in the fight against dengue fever, considering that the disease is suspected to have killed 24 residents of the parish last year.
Medical Officer of Health for St. Catherine, Dr Francia Prosper-Chen, during a community meeting in Linstead last evening, gave the following figures regarding the mosquito-borne illness in the parish last year:
- There were 992 suspected, presumed or confirmed cases of dengue fever
- 24 suspected dengue-related deaths
- 9 of the suspected cases of dengue-related deaths are in Linstead
- There were 5 confirmed dengue-related deaths in the parish
- The people mostly affected are children 14 years old or younger
- More females are affected than males
- The predominant symptoms are fever, headache, eye pain and vomiting
The Medical Officer of Health, in the meantime, said the number of cases fluctuated at different points last year.
The places most affected were Spanish Town, followed by Portmore, Linstead and Old Harbour.
“We don’t know when it (dengue) is going to end – and the sad part about it is that the children are dying. So we really need to start paying attention to see what we can do at home and in our communities to stop the outbreak,” Dr. Prosper-Chen said.
She added: “You can have dengue four times. There was a time when we used to see dengue maybe every 10 years, and then it started every five years, and now it’s almost every year. The more often you get dengue, the more severe it might be.”
Dr. Prosper-Chen further said the health ministry has done a lot in the fight against dengue fever, adding that the strategies implemented included increased fogging and public sensitization.
In relation to human resource, a total of 150 temporary vector control workers were hired in St. Catherine to assist the 35 that are permanent.
The Medical Officer of Health said: “With these workers, we were able to move the number of premises that we inspect on a monthly basis from about 4,000 upwards to maybe 48,000 in a month – and we have seen the concurrent decrease in the mosquito indices; so less mosquitoes.”
She further told residents: “We have been fogging every evening; we fog in the early mornings. Did you know that? We pay special attention to our schools and what we call key premises, which would be not just schools but anywhere like tyre shops and so on where water settles.”
The Medical Officer of Health added that the gap left to be filled is to get more people to join the fight against dengue. “It comes down to citizens taking responsibility,” she noted.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton, who also attended the meeting in Linstead, amplified the appeal for residents to play their part.
“I am appealing to the citizens of St. Catherine – starting right here in Linstead; let us take this on as our personal challenge,” he said.
Dr. Tufton explained that his ministry has invested heavily in the fight against dengue fever nationally, adding that $400 million has been spent to improve the ‘under-resourced’ vector control programme.
He said the funds were used to purchase 40 new vehicle-mounted foggers, as well as 60 brand new vehicles – seven of which have been assigned to St. Catherine parish.
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