CARPHA warns of increase in dengue cases in the region
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) says it has noted the continued increase, over the past six months, in reports of suspected and confirmed cases of dengue in the Caribbean region.
CARPHA said that the increase has been noted in member states that have seen increased rainfall.
It said that the associated risks and ripple effects must not be underestimated as outbreaks of dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases like Zika and Chikungunya pose a significant threat to health, tourism, as well as social and economic development.
“Regional health security remains at the fore of CARPHA’s focus. In this regard, any public health threat, such as dengue, that imperils the integrity of our regional response systems must be dealt with in a timely and effective manner and as such demands, that as the Caribbean Community, we mobilise efforts to maximise efficiencies,” said CARPHA’s executive director, Dr Joy St John.
“Member states are encouraged to remain vigilant and flexible with their national work plans and available resources to maximise chances of successful responses. In 2023, four CARPHA member states have reported dengue outbreaks and trends are being monitored in others with subsets of all four Dengue serotypes circulating across the region,” she added.
CARPHA said dengue is known to cause outbreaks every three to five years and that in the recent past, the seasonality of dengue transmission in the Americas and the Caribbean has added to the record highs of total case numbers and complications.
It said while 2019 was distinct from being the year with the highest number of reported Dengue cases in the Americas, it is very likely that 2023 will surpass that historic high. In 2023, up to epi-week 40, the Caribbean has noted a 15 per cent increase in confirmed dengue cases in CARPHA member states (CMS) compared to a similar period in 2022.
CARPHA’s Assistant Director of Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control, and Head Vector Borne Diseases, Dr Horace Cox, said the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads the virus, is present in all Caribbean territories.
“Vulnerable populations in small island developing states, like the Caribbean, and continental states with low-lying coastal regions, need to be better prepared and resilient in addressing the prevention and control of Dengue and other arboviral diseases,” Cox said.
Senior Technical Officer for Vector-Borne Diseases at CARPHA, Rajesh Ragoo, said “around our homes and communities, we need to ensure our surroundings are clean and free of materials or containers that can accumulate water.
“We often overlook plant pot bases, vases, buckets and used vehicle tyres. These are typical breeding sites and should be checked frequently. Water storage drums and tanks must be properly covered and inspected periodically to ensure that there is no breeding. Roof gutters should also be cleaned,” he said, adding wire-mesh/screens on doors and windows also help in reducing the entry of mosquitoes into homes.
CARPHA said that the mosquitoes that spread dengue are active during the day. Personal preventative measures to minimise mosquito bites are also extremely important.
It said vulnerable groups such as infants, young children, older adults, and women who are pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, must be extra cautious.
Long-sleeved clothing and repellents containing DEET, IR3535 or lemon eucalyptus, should be used to protect exposed skin or clothing, and must be used in accordance with the instructions on the product label. Confirmed cases should rest under mosquito nets.
“To counter the increase in mosquitoes and potential disease transmission, greater effort should be placed on mosquito control activities in communities, and these should be intensified.
“CARPHA urges its member states to review their preparedness and response plans, as well as to continue surveillance, early diagnosis, and timely care of dengue and other arbovirus cases, to prevent severe cases and deaths associated with these diseases,” she said.
CARPHA also urged member states to use available data, tools, and technologies to improve forecasting capacities, including the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS).
It said CMS should also prioritise proper clinical management of suspected dengue cases by strengthening detection and management capacities at the primary healthcare level, thus preventing the progression of the disease to its severe forms.
“CARPHA remains committed to supporting CMS in their vector control efforts, including capacity-building in integrated vector control strategies. CMS must continue to strengthen prevention and control measures such as surveillance, diagnosis, as well as timely and adequate treatment of cases, while ensuring that health care services are prepared to facilitate access and proper management of patients with these diseases,” CARPHA added.
CARPHA said it has launched a social media campaign to raise awareness and promote effective prevention and control measures for dengue, a recurring threat to public health in the Caribbean region.