Health officials fear next dengue outbreak will be worst yet
Uncollected garbage scattered by stray animals. (Photo: Ashagaye Mullings)

MORANT BAY, St Thomas — Concerned that the next dengue outbreak will be the worst seen in recent times, health officials in St Thomas want a speedy removal of waste that is harbouring mosquitos and other disease-carrying pests.

"Dengue is encouraged when we have all of this solid waste lying around. Tin cans, sardine cans, sausage and tin mackerel cans… all of these are out there piling up in people's yard right next to the houses, which encourages the breeding of mosquitos," said medical officer for health in St Thomas, Dr D'Oyen Smith.

He wants Metropolitan Parks and Markets Waste Management Limited (MPM) to move quickly to address the issue, and has pointed out that preventing an outbreak would be less expensive than treating one.

"We are also looking at the possibility of lives being lost because dengue has a bleeding part to it, which is known as dengue hemorragico. There are four types of dengue, and we have had like two or three outbreaks in the last eight years which means that we are possibly going to be seeing different outbreaks. If a person gets infected more than once, it is more likely for them to bleed once reinfected," Dr Smith warned.

He was speaking during Thursday's monthly meeting of the St Thomas Municipal Corporation.

Dr Smith later told the Jamaica Observer that he can foresee an outbreak soon if garbage is not collected weekly. During the rainy season, uncollected garbage creates the ideal conditions for mosquitos to breed.

At Thursday's meeting, Councillor Hubert Williams (White Horses Division, People's National Party) complained that he has not seen a garbage truck in his division for more than a month. He believes guidance must be given to citizens on how to store waste until it is removed.

"For Botany Bay, it is more than eight weeks since the garbage truck hasn't come. This cannot be healthy to store garbage for eight weeks," he stated.

Chief Public Health Inspector Pauline Ellington outlined temporary methods of disposal that residents can utilise until the trucks are back on schedule.

"This is a public health matter and this is an emergency situation. Persons can bury their garbage once there is space as well as… using waste that can be broken down — such as skins from food in gardens and on farms — as compost," she said.

A concerned Mayor Michael Hue (Port Morant Division, Jamaica Labour Party) is appealing to MPM to temporarily source private trucks to clear the backlog from streets and homes across the parish.

Empty cans like these collect rainwater, providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes. (Photo: Ashagaye Mullings)

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