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J'cans urged to protect themselves against Chick-V virus

Thursday, April 10, 2014    

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JAMAICANS are being urged to protect themselves against the emerging vector-borne disease, Chikungunya virus.

According to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), 10 countries in the region have recorded cases of the Chikungunya virus (commonly called Chick-V), which is transmitted by the aedes aegypti mosquito.

Addressing a World Health Day Celebration at the Black River Methodist Church in St Elizabeth on Monday, April 7, Luther Buchanan, minister of state in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for primary healthcare infrastructure, noted the economic implications of the disease, should it affect Jamaica.

He added that the Ministry of Health has been putting measures in place for over a year, in anticipation of the possibility of the disease reaching the country.

"Training and sensitisation of staff has begun to take place, our surveillance system continues to be strengthened to allow us to quickly detect cases, our vector control programme continues to operate, and we have developed a communication strategy," Buchanan stated.

He urged individuals to destroy mosquito breeding sites, in and around their homes, workplaces and communities, adding that everyone has a part to play in the containment of vector-borne diseases.

Making reference to the theme for this year's World Health Day Celebrations, 'Vector-borne Diseases, Small Bite: Big Threat', the state minister advised that there is no specific treatment for Chick-V, nor is there a vaccine. He therefore stressed the importance of protecting oneself from mosquito bites.

"World Health Day this year is therefore a call to action for every citizen to play their part in reducing the possibility of the spread of vector-borne diseases, especially the ones that are of clear and present danger to us," he emphasised.

Meanwhile, PAHO representative Dr Tara Lee Malcolm pointed out that environmental changes, a massive increase in international travel and trade, changes in agricultural practices, and rapid unplanned urbanisation are causing an increase in the number and spread of many vectors worldwide, and making new groups of people vulnerable.

She said that despite the decline in deaths from vector-borne diseases in recent decades, they continue to cause misery and hardships as a result of illness and disabilities.

The countries in the region where cases of the disease have been recorded are Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Martin (French), Saint Maarten, St Barthelemy and St Kitts. There has been one imported case recorded in Aruba.

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