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Six suspected dengue-related deaths so far

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, December 13, 2018

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SIX people are suspected to have died so far this year as a result of the mosquito-borne dengue virus, the Ministry of Health has disclosed.

At the same time, there have been 570 suspected cases of the virus that causes dengue fever, with nine confirmed cases.

The figures were disclosed yesterday at a health ministry press briefing, at which National Epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster Kerr explained that the figures are below those which constitute an “outbreak”.

Dengue fever is believed to infect 50 to 100 million people worldwide per year, with a half-million life-threatening infections.

An outbreak is characterised by 450 recorded cases of dengue per month.

According to Webster Kerr, Jamaica experiences an outbreak every two to four years, with the last being registered in 2016.

“When we look at the figures for dengue, we have had this year 570 suspected cases compared to 177 cases for the previous year. So based on the information we have now, we are having a more active season; however, it is not at outbreak levels at this time, but we continue to monitor the levels of dengue,” the doctor said.

“... If you are looking year to year, it may seem dramatic — maybe three times as much persons — but it has not reached that critical level to say it is an outbreak. But we are still concerned about the numbers, and it means that we are in dengue season and a dengue case may have complications,” she added.

Webster Kerr also noted that for dengue haemorrhagic, a more complicated case of dengue, there have been 70 suspected cases compared to 38 last year.

Dengue haemorrhagic is a syndrome due to the dengue virus that tends to affect children under 10, causing abdominal pain, haemorrhage (bleeding) and circulatory collapse (shock).

“We have had six suspected dengue-related deaths this year, compared to six last year,” Webster Kerr said

She mentioned that Jamaicans with dengue fever should take a paracetamol and not anything else, which may lead to bleeding.

In the meantime, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie explained that while 70 per cent of dengue cases are very mild, ignoring symptoms can lead to death.

“The fever with dengue usually lasts for about five days and it is usually when the fever is going away that persons tend to worsen. That worsening can include that persons are not eating, they're vomiting, and it can include that they show signs of bleeding. So what happens is that you tend to have persons being more [relaxed] — conditions arising in the body that lead to the possibility of bleeding more and also there is difficulty in maintaining their hemodynamic status, so the blood pressures tend to drop and may not be able to circulate to vital organs. So there are a range of complications that can occur, but it tends to occur sometimes when you almost feel as if you've run the course now and you're about to get better.

“So persons just have to be aware that these conditions can occur, and it is better to be safe and to visit your health practitioner than to stay at home if you have a condition that is worsening,” she said.

Additionally, head of the health promotion and protection branch Dr Simone Spence stated that the ministry continues to maintain its vigilance in communities across the island in order to address diseases borne by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

“This is reflected in the range of initiatives that we have designed within the vector control programme in response to the seasonal increase of vector-borne diseases that are transmitted. Since 2016 we have implemented the temporary worker programme, which seeks to employ additional workers from July to December. This year we have implemented that programme as well and employed an additional 900 workers across the island. Through this programme we have increased our visits in terms of the number of communities we are able to cover,” she shared.

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