Dengue fever outbreak in St Lucia

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Dengue fever outbreak in St Lucia

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

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CASTRIES, St Lucia (CMC) — Health authorities here have declared an outbreak of dengue fever and are urging members of the population to help eradicate the breeding grounds of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito which is mainly responsible for the spread of the virus.

“Over the last few weeks the Ministry of Health and Wellness has continued to provide updates to the public on the significant increases in trends of dengue viral infection. These increasing trend now constitute an outbreak,” said national epidemiologist Dr Michelle Francois, adding “this means that the numbers currently being reported exceed the numbers expected and as such, this warrants immediate and a targeted response”.

Speaking during a news conference on the state-owned National Television Network (NTN), Dr Francois said that as of the end of the week August 9-15, there have been 168 confirmed cases of dengue infection.

The officials said that the hospitalisation rate is 46 per cent with no known deaths. They said 38 per cent of the reported cases were between the ages of 5-14 years.

“Even more concerning is the fact that both serotypes two and three of dengue are in circulation in St Lucia,” Dr Francois said, noting that while most of the cases are concentrated in the northern, central and eastern parts of the island, cases have also been reported in the south and west as well.

“The public health impact of managing a dengue outbreak, combined with adjusting to the new normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic, will place a strain on the already stretched health care services. The direct economic cost of treatment, hospitalization and prevention, as well as the indirect costs such as loss of productivity related to absence, disability or death, and the effects on tourism is of concern to an already fragile economy,” Dr Francois told reporters.

She said that the dengue fever is mosquito borne and is transmitted usually by the female Aedes Aegypti and to a lesser extent, the Aedes Albopictus.

The mosquitoes live in urban habitats and breed mostly in man-made containers. It is a day-time feeder with its peak biting periods in the early morning and evening before sunset.

Recovery from infection is believed to be lifelong, and an individual gets immunity for the rest of their life from one serotype. However, cross immunity to other types is only temporary.

Dr Francois said that dengue has an incubation period of four to 10 days after the bite of a mosquito and it is during this period that a person acquires the infection.

The authorities say about 75 per cent of dengue infections are asymptomatic or produces a very mild febrile illness which may be confused with other illnesses, such as COVID-19. People with mild dengue may present with fever, accompanied by rash, nausea/vomiting, pain behind the eye, muscle and joint pain.

In its more severe form, persons may progress to bleeding from the gums or nose, vomiting blood and passing blood in the stool.

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