BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has called on health officials across the region to prepare for the possibility of a severe outbreak of the mosquito-borne Dengue Fever.
In a statement Thursday, CARPHA said the last major regional outbreak of Dengue occurred in 2009. “Since then, the Region has experienced two large outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases, Chikungunya in 2014 and Zika in 2016, which are unlikely to reoccur soon.”
The regional agency also said that “Disease modeling predicts that another regional outbreak of Dengue may occur in the near future,” adding that last year, Latin America showed an increase in the number of Dengue cases.
Jamaica’s outbreak elevates concern
CARPHA has also pointed to the recent outbreak of Dengue in Jamaica, saying that it has elevated the level of concern in other Caribbean islands.
“The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is therefore advising countries to implement enhanced measures to reduce mosquito breeding and prevent the spread of disease.”
Dengue is a flu-like illness that affects infants, young children and adults. Symptoms typically begin four to ten days after infection, and include a high fever, headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash. This illness can evolve to severe dengue, characterized by potentially deadly complications, such as internal hemorrhaging, intense and continuous abdominal pain or tenderness and persistent vomiting. In some cases, Dengue may be severe and cause death.
Dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases threaten health, tourism, social and economic development, and a collaborative effort is required to reduce the spread of disease. Dengue remains a global health problem and like Zika and Chikungunya, there is no specific treatment for the disease. The Aedes aegypti mosquito vector, which spreads Dengue, is present in all Caribbean territories.
Preventative measures similar to those for Zika
The measures used for controlling the spread of Dengue are the same as those for Zika and Chikungunya as these diseases are also transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. With the arrival of the rainy season within a few months, mosquito control and awareness activities need to be intensified. Caribbean Ministries of Health are advised to – Increase health promotion messages to prevent mosquitos biting and breeding; combine efforts with communities to eliminate mosquito breeding sites; intensify vector surveillance and control and disseminate appropriate clinical care and treatment guidelines
The agency says that the most effective way to avoid becoming ill from viruses spread by mosquitoes is to prevent mosquito bites.
Research carried out by CARPHA and the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) show that drums and tires are the main mosquito breeding sources in our countries.
“We all need to clean up our surroundings. The two most important things to manage mosquito populations in our Caribbean countries are to manage water storage drums and tanks, and properly dispose of used vehicle tyres to prevent mosquitoes breeding,” states Dr C. James Hospedales, Executive Director of CARPHA.