ST JAMES, Jamaica - The Westmoreland Health Department is embarking on a comprehensive public education campaign aimed at raising awareness and preventing any further cases of dengue fever in the parish.
A team led by Medical Officer of Health for Westmoreland, Dr Marcia Graham, and Parish Health Promotion and Education Office, Gerald Miller, visited Little London on Friday, where members engaged residents and distributed vital information about dengue fever prevention and control.
The department will be taking the campaign to major towns across the parish.
The public education campaign revolves around the four "S" principles – Search and destroy mosquito breeding sites, Seek protection from mosquito bites using repellents and bed nets, Seek immediate medical attention if symptomatic, and Support vector-control workers who are actively combatting the outbreak.
“With collective effort and adherence to these principles “we can minimise the impact of this dengue outbreak in Westmoreland,” Dr Graham said.
She pointed out that the campaign is in response to a concerning increase in suspected dengue cases up to the end of August 2023.
Dr Graham said that while awaiting confirmation from the Ministry of Health and Wellness for several cases, the health d++epartment is taking proactive action and is treating patients based on their symptoms.
“We want to get the message out because we are in outbreak mode, and so we want to be proactive in preventing any adverse outcomes,” she noted.
Dr Graham said that a notable aspect of this outbreak is that a significant portion of the cases involve children under the age of 15.
“The prevailing dengue serotype two, circulating now, hasn't been seen since 2010. Children born after that year are vulnerable, so we urge parents to take any fever in a child seriously and avoid certain medications until dengue is ruled out," Dr Graham said.
To ensure access to medical care, she noted that the health department has extended the operating hours of several health centres, including the Savanna-la-Mar facility, which now offers extended hours on weekdays and Saturdays.
“At Savanna-la-Mar, which is our main type 4 health centre, we have already extended opening hours from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm, Monday to Thursday. We're open from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm on a Friday, and on Saturdays we open our doors at 8:00 am and we close them at 4: 00 pm,” Dr Graham informed.
“Since the declaration of this outbreak, we have offered extended opening hours at some of our type three health centres, namely our health centre in Darliston in Whitehouse and in Negril; they will be open until 8:00 pm every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We will monitor the outbreak and we will adjust further based on the demands,” she said.
Dr Graham highlighted the key symptoms of dengue fever, including sudden fever onset, severe headaches, eye and joint pain, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, and in some cases, a rash.
She urged residents to seek medical attention promptly, emphasising that the best outcomes are achieved when individuals present themselves within the first five days of illness.