by Shawn Cumberbatch
British health authorities are pointing fingers at Barbados following a major surge in dengue fever cases in the United Kingdom.
And nationals from what is the island’s main tourist destination are now being advised to exercise extra caution when traveling here in light of increased cases of the illness.
Ever since January this year Barbadian health authorities have been reporting increased dengue fever cases and last week Chief Environmental Health Officer Tryone Applewhaite said his department and other officials were working on plans to mitigate the problem.
This was especially so in the context of the upcoming rainy season, which begins next month.
But indications were that Barbados’ problem was not merely domestic since the UK had linked it to its own dengue fever outbreak, with Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health in the UK saying up to the end of last month 11 Britons had contracted dengue after visiting Barbados.
In a new bulletin released this month Public Health England urged British travelers to “protect themselves from insect bites as dengue fever cases triple”.
These 11 cases linked to Barbados in the first four months of this were against none reported for all of last year.
With dengue transmitted by bites from infected Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, English health officials said up to the end of last month there were 141 confirmed and probable cases of dengue fever reported, compared to the 51 cases during the same period last year involving travellers from England, Wales and Northern Ireland between January and April 2013 when compared to the same period last year.
“Of the cases reported to PHE so far in 2013, 37 have reported travel to Thailand compared to 16 for the same period in 2012. The annual totals of cases who report travel to Thailand have also continued to increase year-on-year with 21 in 2011 and 58 in 2012,” the bulletin stated.
“Of the other travel destinations reported so far in 2013, 13 had been to Sri Lanka, 11 to Barbados, nine to Brazil and six to Jamaica. Other sporadic cases have been acquired from travel to Asia, Africa and the Americas.”
Dr Jane Jones, a travel-associated infection expert at PHE, said officials were concerned about “the increase in the numbers of people returning with dengue fever”.
“So we want to remind people of the need to practise strict mosquito bite avoidance at all times to reduce their risk of becoming unwell,” she stated. Dr. Dipti Patel, joint director of the National Travel Health Network and Centre, which is commissioned by PHE, urged people traveling to Barbados and other destinations where dengue fever was present to take extra precautions.
“There is no specific preventive medicine or vaccination against dengue fever and prevention relies on avoiding mosquito bites particularly around dusk and dawn when the day biting mosquitoes are most active,” Pitel said. [email protected]