'Don't Panic'

Tufton urges St James residents to keep calm in light of increase in suspected dengue cases

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer West writer

Thursday, September 12, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is urging St James residents not to panic in the wake of reports of an uptick in suspected cases of dengue fever in the parish.

“It is not a time to panic. It is a time to respond and to address the challenges that we face and that is what we need to focus on. We (the government, hospitals, and health centres) are prepared to play our part to the extent that we need to step up the pace and additional resources; we will also do that,” assured Dr Tufton.

According to senior medical officer for the St James Health Department Dr Marcia Johnson Campbell, the St James Public Health Services has seen an increase in the notification of individuals with suspected dengue fever, while the Cornwall Regional Hospital in the parish has reported a large number of people “being admitted and seen for care”.

“Just, for example, Cornwall Regional would have reported yesterday (last week Thursday) having 23 persons being admitted to the hospital and another 11 persons waiting in accident and emergency to be seen [by a doctor] all with suspected cases of dengue fever. So, that is a significant amount of persons being ill,” stated Dr Johnson Campbell.

She stressed, however, that “these reported matters are considered to be suspected case as they are yet to be confirmed by a lab test.”

“We do know that dengue fever is one of a differential diagnosis. So, there are persons who may have what may seem to be just a regular flu, however, the persons that I am referring to would have more or less, met the case definition of what we consider to be dengue fever. We would not have confirmed the diagnosis because confirmation comes after doing a blood test and we would not have confirmed these cases, but they are all suspected cases,” she argued.

Dr Johnson Campbell noted that in general, dengue is easily treated and most people will recover within a week or two. However, she said if there is persistent fever, vomiting, weakness and abdominal pain, such person should seek urgent care.

Dr Tufton explained that the Aedes aegypti mosquito is endemic to Jamaica, pointing out that “so, you are not going to truly get rid of it permanently.”

“What you have to do is control the population and we have the ultimate responsibility as citizens, individuals and householders, and so, we have to recognise our role in that regard.”

Chief Public Health Inspector for St James Lennox Wallace noted that bulk waste is of concern to the health department in the constituencies of St James Central, St James North West and St James West Central. He said the department will be partnering with the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) to undertake operations twice weekly in those constituencies in an effort to reduce the bulk waste.

Wallace disclosed that over the past two months, the health department has visited some 121 communities in St James to conduct source reduction and fogging exercises, adding that a series of health education programmes have also been undertaken.

Additionally, he said, some 66 schools have been inspected and breeding sites dealt with, where discovered, over the same two-month period.

Meanwhile, Dr Tufton said a decision has been taken to add another 30 persons to the current 63 temporary workers that support the preventative strategy efforts of the 11 permanent staff in the parish.

He added that the number of vehicles to carry workers and equipment will also be increased, adding that a few private pest control contractors are to be engaged for fogging purposes.

Dr Tufton, Dr Johnson Campbell and Wallace were speaking at a media briefing at the Montego Bay Type Five Clinic in St James on Friday shortly before touring sections of the Norwood and Flanker communities in the constituency of St James North West.

Since last month the community of Norwood which falls in the St James North Western constituency has recorded two suspected dengue deaths, one of whom is a child.


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