Health experts condemn stoning of vector control workers in Portland
PORT ANTONIO, Portland – Vector control workers in Portland were stoned twice in 2023 in the Belle Castle/Scott’s Run area and in the community of Norwich.
Addressing a meeting of the Portland Municipal Corporation last Thursday, Dr Sharon Lewis, medical officer for health in Portland, and Environmental Health Officer Lorenzo Hume condemned the stoning of the health teams and commended the vector team for their work as indicated by the results.
Dr Lewis reported that at the end of July 2023 Portland had the unenviable distinction of being the parish with the highest Breteau Index (which indicates the risk for dengue transmission in areas) of 65.
At that time the Aedes Premises Index for Portland (which measures the percentage of premises positive for the larval breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which causes dengue fever in a locality) was 24.5 per cent.
In both indices the higher the number, the more at risk are residents.
“The result of all our interventions, in collaboration with community members and other stakeholders, brought the parish Breteau Index to 23 and the premises index to 9.7 at the end of December 2023,” said Dr Lewis.
“This is the first time, in a number of years, that our Aedes indices are in the lowest category. I am very proud of the vector control team and the environmental health unit and their partnership with me in crafting the 15th to 15th initiative and executing it despite many challenges.
“I commend the stakeholders and community members who supported our efforts so we can now enjoy this success together. We now need to maintain the indices at these low levels so we will continue to employ the strategies that we have been employing and continue to seek the collaboration and partnership of all stakeholders within the parish towards this end,” added Dr Lewis as she appealed to residents to desist from throwing stones at the vector control team members when they are doing fogging.
“We have had reports of such incidents in 2023 and so I want to encourage such citizens, if they have concerns with the impact of fogging, you may visit the public health inspector at the nearest health clinic to discuss the concerns and that we will have an effort to respond to those concerns.
“Our vector control officers should be able to carry out their duties without threat to their safety in our communities so I am seeking the cooperation of the public in this regard. Our chief public health inspector did some investigation and fact-finding and we did come across some of the issues and misunderstandings and will use the information garnered to do some sensitising session with the community,” said Dr Lewis.
In the meantime, Hume, chief environmental officer for Portland, reported there was one incident of vector control workers being stoned in October with a prior stoning event in Belle Castle in September.
“We tried to address that and did organise a community meeting but it was delayed because of the competing weather. Likewise, there was a stoning incident in Norwich, the lane opposite the school road near the skip going to the train line. Someone threw a stone at the team, damaging one of the fogging machines, but no one was injured.
“We are very concerned as it is important to note that we are operating in a dark environment with limited light during the period when we fog for most cases. The lights are at intervals so when someone ambushes the team it is dangerous because it can cause severe injury to the team members,” said Hume.
“We are having success in the programme here and we do not wish to have it disrupted by unruly people. We did report it to the police and got a receipt. I note that some people are not in agreement with it and that’s a positive and we are going to use that positive to engage the community to ensure we are reaching to them to understand that stoning the vector team is also putting them at risk and so they should encourage the deviant in their community to desist from doing so. We will engage the community and try and have that meeting between now and February,” added Hume.