Tufton says resources not main issue in dengue fight

Friday, October 11, 2019

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MINISTER of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton says that resources is not the main problem hampering efforts to control the current dengue outbreak.

“Right now it is not so much an issue of resources, or lack thereof, because we are engaged in a number of initiatives. The issue is the severity of the outbreak, and I will not dismiss the fact that it is a regional outbreak that is caused by weather patterns,” Dr Tufton told the House of Representatives on Tuesday as he responded to questions from Opposition MPs.

“The reality is that, as a region, we are faced with a particular calamity based on the environmental conditions,” he told the House, as he delivered a statement announcing government's plan to spend some $329.5 million more on an enhanced vector programme to counter the outbreak by controlling the growing population of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the vector that transmits the dengue virus.

Tufton said that he was prepared to take advice, and to collaborate, in terms of finding new ideas to respond to the spread of the virus.

“Which is why I met with PAHO (Pan American Health Organisation) in Washington and asked them to do an assessment of what we are currently doing, and to make suggestions, if necessary, on what else can be done to address the situation. So resources is not really the problem, it is how we deploy and deal with it,” he added.

In his statement, Tufton confirmed that Jamaica is experiencing an outbreak of dengue. He also confirmed that in 2018, 17 people died from the mosquito-borne disease and, so far in 2019, the figure has reached 27 deaths.

“This is what I am getting from the clinicians who do the tests to confirm the deaths,” he explained.

Tufton also noted that it was important to recognise that the most vulnerable people are young children and very old people, which he attributed to weaknesses in their immune system or lack of exposure to the virus.

He said that of the $329.5 million budget, $189.5 million would be spent on the employment of temporary workers in the vector control programme; $100 million on source reduction (bulky waste removal); $30 million on a public education campaign; and $10 million on vector control intervention, including drum covers.

“The Government remains and will continue to be vigilant in protecting the public from this vector borne disease, and is committed to implementing strategic and coordinated responses to the outbreak,” he said.

“We will continue our public education efforts and ensure that all stakeholders and the public are provided with timely updates and information necessary to protect the public's health,” he concluded.

— Balford Henry

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