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Doctors report more suspected dengue cases in Clarendon

BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
Staff reporter
hendrickss@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 27, 2019

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Sixty-five suspected cases of the dengue haemorrhagic fever have been reported at the May Pen Hospital as of January, one of which resulted in the death of 14-year-old Areel Foster.

The teenager was transported from the parish to the Kingston Public Hospital last week where she succumbed to symptoms of the virus.

Head of the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department at the hospital, Dr Orane Richards, told the Jamaica Observer that the number of suspected cases of dengue has been on the increase, pointing out that, in a single day, 30 out of 87 patients who showed up at the department came with viral symptoms.

Meanwhile, Dr Kimberly Scarlett Campbell, who is the medical officer in charge of technical services for health centres across Clarendon, said that although there has not been a single confirmed case of dengue in the parish, the number of suspected cases reported at health centres has also increased.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of suspected cases of dengue fever reported at health facilities in the parish. We have 32 health centres, 16 of them offer curative services. And so far in the parish, we are seeing an increase in reported suspect cases,” Dr Scarlett Campbell told the Sunday Observer.

Opting not to disclose the number of suspected cases at the health centres, Dr Scarlett Campbell said that a combination of the number of cases at the May Pen Hospital and the Lionel Town Hospital, as well as those at the health centres, would reveal a much higher figure for suspected cases in the parish.

The medical officers also reported that since this year, there has not been a single confirmed case of dengue in the parish, largely because samples sent to the National Public Health Laboratory in Kingston are still pending confirmation.

So far, of the 830 suspected cases of dengue reported by the Ministry of Health for the period January 1, 2018 to date, 23 cases have been confirmed across Jamaica.

“To date, I have not received any confirmation of dengue in Clarendon. Of all the samples that have been sent to the National Public Health Lab, I have not been informed that any have come back positive for dengue fever. And that included the student who died from the Central High School last week. So we have suspected cases, but no confirmation”, said Dr Scarlett Campbell.

Currently, testing for dengue has to be done at the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad & Tobago where all samples are sent for confirmation.

Dr Richards also explained that there is the likelihood of a backlog of samples waiting to be confirmed at the national lab where preliminary testing of all samples islandwide is done.

“Confirmation is the real problem because the process is highly centralised. All the samples have to be sent to the National Public Health Lab. So if all the cases going to one place, then there is going to be a backlog. So basically I don't know that the country has any confirmed cases as yet. We have no lab tests or facilities here to confirm dengue, so we just act on suspicion and then we do our preliminary procedures to see if it is probable,” said Richards.

In the meantime, Scarlett-Campbell said that doctors in the parish have been relying on rapid test kits to determine whether patients are likely to have the viral infection and from there determine how to proceed with treatment.

“Private practitioners have been utilising rapid test kits to test to see if a patient in front of them have signs and symptoms of dengue hemorrhagic fever. But those tests are sensitive but not specific.

“Some have also been calling me saying that some of the test kits have come back positive, and some have come back negative and they believe it could be something else in circulation.

“The thing with dengue is it is a viral disease and any kind of viral disease can have certain signs and symptoms, so doctors don't necessarily have to wait on a diagnosis of dengue to treat a patient that is in front of them. They can look at biochemical markers that know how to treat patients. So we have been advising doctors to use other tests to guide how they manage patients that present with symptoms of dengue. We are trying to save lives and not treat results,” said Dr Scarlett Campbell.

On average, the medical officer said it takes seven to 10 days to process dengue samples for confirmation of the virus.


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