SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — In response to a 16 per cent increase in the number of suspected dengue cases in Westmoreland, the health department has increased workers across the parish by almost 60 per cent.
"They will be conducting search and destroy of premises and, therefore, we encourage residents to support the vector control team of the Westmoreland Health Department and, by extension, the country, because we want to curtail the further spread of the dengue virus across this country," stated acting chief public health inspector for the parish, Rowan Stephens.
The team has been increased from 35 to 55.
Stephens, who was addressing the regular monthly general meeting of the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation last Thursday, revealed that within a month there has been a slight increase of 12 per cent in the Aedes index population.
In May, he had reported a reduction.
"So it is trending in the wrong direction and we are trying our best to see how we can curtail it. We want all efforts on board to stem this upward trajectory as best as possible in the shortest period," Stephens said.
The acting chief public health inspector spoke of the department's upcoming health education campaign.
"We will be going out in the communities with the support of our health education unit to the different town centres, schools, and other mass gathering sites so as to edify the populace on dengue prevention as best as possible," he said.
Stephens is also calling on elected representatives and communities to do their part.
"We encourage all representatives here to do their part in their small ways to ensure that we rid the communities of mosquito breeding sites. The residents have to play their part. Minimum, twice per week search [for] and destroy [mosquitos at] your premises and remove all breeding sites for mosquitoes," he suggested.
Medical officer of health for the parish Dr Marcia Graham had a similar call.
"Once the mosquitoes have gotten to the adult stage, where they can fly, they do not discriminate against who they bite, and it may not be the person who bred them that they may end up affecting. And so it takes a collective approach to us making sure that we reduce the number of breeding sites and, therefore, the risk of then getting an outbreak," she stated.
"Persons who operate tyre shops need to take special caution that the tyres are stored where they don't become breeding sites," the senior officer added.
Dr Graham also reminded the meeting of the symptoms associated with the virus. She said it is characterised by sudden fever, headache, pain behind the eyes, nausea, vomiting, body aches, and a rash.
"When a person, therefore, has a fever, we are asking please use acetaminophen or paracetamol-based medication for the fever, for the pain. We ask that you avoid using aspirin or any of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents such as ibuprofen or naproxen and other medications… because these other medications can make dengue fever worse and give you a worse outcome," she said.
"We encourage persons to stick to paracetamol until you have sought medical attention and know that you do not have dengue as the cause of your fever," the officer added.
Dr Graham noted that the health department tries to distribute flyers by hand as well as electronically, and the public can visit the Ministry of Health and Wellness website for credible information.