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MP: Vector control workers not going to work

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 10, 2019

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NEWLY minted People's National Party (PNP) Opposition spokesman on health and wellness Dr Morais Guy has called on Minister Dr Christopher Tufton to investigate reports that a number of individuals contracted to carry out vector control activities “have not been going to work”.

Speaking in Parliament Tuesday in the wake of a statement by the health and wellness minister on the current dengue outbreak in the island, Dr Guy, in arguing that the health sector is overburdened because of the increased demand placed on it due to the current crisis, said vector control activities should be optimal and needed to be ramped up instead of relaxed.

“These vector control workers that you have going around, information reaching me is that some of them are not even going to work, so the management of it is critical and at the end of the day the buck stops with you (the minister),” Dr Guy, who is member of parliament for St Mary Central, said.

“More needs to be done by the ministry and the Government in bringing this under control. At the end of the day, whatever is being done through the ministry is inadequate to stem this outbreak of dengue in the country,'' Dr Guy continued, while appealing for a dedicated desk in health facilities to guarantee immediate attention for dengue victims.

In the meantime, referencing three recent reported child deaths which were said to be from the virus, Dr Guy queried, “How many more of these are we going to have before the Government and the minister take good charge of the crisis that is occurring in this country?” He further urged the health ministry to reorient medical personnel about the disease, its symptoms and treatment, while calling for more funds to be allocated to deal with the outbreak.

On Tuesday, member of parliament for St Thomas Eastern, the PNP's Dr Fenton Ferguson, also claimed that vector control activity in his end of the country was deficient.

Dr Ferguson, who is also Opposition spokesman on water, environment and climate change, charged that there were only two vehicles operating in St Thomas for vector control activities, one owned by the ministry and the other rented.

“With the best of public relations, in the absence of vehicles to do what we have provided funding for, you will not be able meet the objectives. Make sure that St Thomas, which is a vulnerable parish, is provided for,” he said.

The health minister, in responding, said he would be probing those reports further, since parish teams were told to deploy vehicles as needed, which would involve their private vehicles or rented transportation.

As it related to the number of deaths, he clarified that confirmed dengue deaths stood at 17 in 2018 and 27 so far in 2019.

“This is what I am getting from the clinicians those that have done tests to confirm the deaths. The notifications are what the doctors initially report, based on clinical symptoms, prior to the actual tests; and so when tested, the numbers come significantly down,” Dr Tufton told the House of Representatives.

In the meantime, the health minister, who said that “every death is unfortunate”, told the Hosue it was very important that people recognise that the young and very old are particularly vulnerable to dengue.

“The rest of us have to take particular precautions. Early detection is absolutely critical,” Dr Tufton stated. In noting further that the orientation of clinicians to ensure that they diagnose and prescribe accurately is important, he said the Government was able to locate additional resources, if necessary, to combat the outbreak.

“Right now, it is not so much an issue of resources or the lack thereof, we can locate more resources if necessary. The issue is the severity of the outbreak. The reality is, as a region we are faced with the calamity based on environmental factors,” Dr Tufton said, adding that he last week asked officials of the Pan American Health Organisation to assess the steps taken so far by the island to address the crisis, and make recommendations as to what other steps can be taken to manage the situation.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease transmitted by the bite of an infected female Aedes aegypti mosquito. Symptoms for dengue typically begin three to 14 days after infection. Symptoms may include a high fever, headache, vomiting or nausea, bone, muscle or joint pains, and a skin rash. Symptoms usually last two to seven days. There are four dengue viruses — Dengue Types 1, 2, 3, and 4.


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