Minister of Health John Boyce has reported a “three-fold increase” in the number of dengue fever cases, while making an impassioned plea to Barbadians to clean up around their homes and businesses.
Speaking at a Press conference to launch Mosquito Eradication Week from November 25 to 29, Boyce revealed that “to date, 689 cases have been notified, with 676 confirmed”, along with two reported deaths attributed to the mosquito-borne illness.
“Data for the same period in 2012, show 273 cases notified, of which 253 were confirmed, and there was one death,” he added, while cautioning that “these are not merely statistics but translate to Barbadians that there is the risk of death and that there is the susceptibility of to the development of severe dengue fever”.
“In response, the Environmental Health Division of the Ministry of Health has taken a number of steps to address the situation.
“House-to-house inspection has increased, especially in areas with high mosquito prevalence. In addition, public education has been stepped up through dissemination of source reduction messages in print and electronic media.
“We have also recently redeveloped a visitation card, which will be left at houses where occupants are not home when the environmental officer or assistants visit to inspect their premises,” he said while encouraging householders who receive these cards to call their polyclinics to make arrangements for an inspection to be done at their convenience.
The theme of Mosquito Eradication Week is Search And Destroy. Health officials are seeking to motivate Barbadians to conduct regular inspections of their premises, their homes, schools, workplaces and other institutions to identify any possible mosquito-breeding sites.
In the same vein, Boyce said, Government would soon be restarting its debushing campaign, but he said the onus was also on Barbadians to keep their property and surroundings clean.
“As minister, I am appealing again to Barbadians who own empty lots to make sure that you get out there and get those lots cleaned, so as to help us on the way on eradicating this mosquito. Obviously your neighbours feel threatened by these lots. With the overgrown bush, the incidence of mosquito breeding will be higher there.
“We want to appeal again to clear those undeveloped lots that are full of bush throughout our island,” he said.
While noting that legislation was already in place, which the Government could use at its discretion to carry out debushing at private properties and then seek compensation from the owners, he said Government did not want to go that route.
However, he is concerned that to date only about 40 per cent of private landowners have heeded the state’s warnings to clean up their lots.
“The point is that Barbadians must understand that this appeal is one that they must heed for the sake of their neighbours, for the sake of the country; so that we can get ahead,” stressed Boyce.
“We will enforce the law wherever it applies and we will continue, when we clear lots belonging to private landowners, we will continue to invoice them,” he added.