gov’t intensifies efforts to sensitise barbadians about mosquito-borne diseases
The Health Ministry has intensified its efforts to control dengue fever, and is increasing sensitisation on chikungunya, an emerging mosquito-borne disease.
This disclosure was made today by Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John, as she addressed participants of a dengue and chikungunya seminar for health care professionals at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Both illnesses are spread by the aedes aegypti mosquito, and St. John, pointed out that this focus was necessary since, according to the World Health Organisation, dengue cases had more than doubled in 2010 and the incidence of chikungunya had increased by 34 per cent, worldwide. She explained that the chikungunya strain of virus also appeared to “travel far and wide without losing its genetic character and may go undetected by health care practitioners”.
As a result, the Pan-American Health Organisation, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, had trained local hospital-based clinicians, a vector control expert and a laboratory technologist in Kingston, Jamaica, in May.
“These individuals have been trained in recognising the introduction of Chikungunya and received updates in the detection, diagnosis, clinical management and prevention of Dengue…”, the senior health official remarked.
The CMO shared that for 2012, Barbados had recorded 156 confirmed cases of Dengue Fever, compared to 97 cases for the same period last year. So far this year, two cases of severe dengue were recorded and one death. Chikungunya, however, is largely unknown in Barbados, but the importation of this disease has the potential of placing additional pressures on the local health care system. The disease is characterised by an abrupt onset of fever, frequently accompanied by joint pain.
“Since 2004, chikungunya has expanded its geographical range, causing sustained epidemics of unprecedented magnitude in Asia and Africa. Although endemic in these areas, the virus has also produced outbreaks in new territories. This recent emergence has heightened our public health awareness and concern about the virus,” St. John pointed out.
The public is reminded that, though the Ministry of Health is readying itself through vector control and education, both dengue and chikungunya are mainly man-made problems, intensified by indiscriminate dumping, littering and poor water storage practices. These environments all provide viable ways for mosquitoes to spread the virus, but efforts to control the mosquito population also reduces the risk of having a chikungunya endemic in Barbados.
“Effective dengue control will not be possible if efforts are confined to the health sector. Dengue surveillance and control must be seen as a collective concern, needing integrated action and community participation… The most doable and most cost effective approach against dengue, and by extension, chikungunya, is to search and destroy all possible mosquito breeding sites. Everyone needs to be part of a massive drive to discard tyres and artificial containers and to clear their roofs and gutters to eliminate breeding sources,” St. John urged.