Dr Tanique Bailey-Small, St James’ medical officer of health, has issued a fresh reminder for residents to closely monitor the current spread of vector-borne diseases such as dengue, Chikungunya and the Zika virus, in light of the parish having recorded 174 confirmed dengue cases since last October.

Addressing last Thursday’s monthly meeting of the St James Municipal Corporation [StJMC], Bailey-Small noted that St James’ vigilance against mosquito-spread illnesses must be amplified in light of the upcoming hurricane season.

“In terms of dengue, you know that our dengue outbreak would have been declared in October 2023. At present, for the parish, we have recorded a total of 1,497 cases, whether it is suspected, probable or confirmed cases, but we have only confirmed 174 cases,” Bailey-Small outlined.

“This would have been the total since the beginning of the outbreak, and since the start of 2024 we have not reported any confirmed cases for dengue. But of course, the outbreak is still ongoing, and we have to remain vigilant because we experienced some period of drought for quite a while. But as we approach the hurricane season and the rainy season, we really have to ramp up our vigilance,” Bailey-Small added.

Her admonition came moments after the StJMC was told that St James’ Aedes index, which is used to record the spread of dengue at the parish level, had decreased to six per cent in April compared to eight per cent in March.

The St James Health Department’s lowest recorded Aedes index for the parish was four per cent in July 2021, while the highest was 30 per cent in August 2023. Efforts have been ongoing to bring the Aedes index down to five per cent or less each month, although the monthly numbers have fluctuated over time.

SIGNIFICANT INCREASE

Bailey-Small also noted that Jamaica needs to be on especially high alert in light of information from the World Health Organisation [WHO] that dengue cases have risen by 100 per cent over the past decade. According to the WHO, global dengue cases rose from 505,430 cases in 2000 to roughly 5.2 million in 2019, while more than 6.5 million cases and 7,300 dengue-related deaths were recorded in 2023.

“When we look at the WHO data over the last 20 years, we recognise that there has been a significant increase in terms of cases, where over 10 years there was more than doubling of 100 per cent of cases based on climate change and so forth. For us, we do have chikungunya and Zika, and we haven’t had any reported cases [of those diseases] for this year, but those diseases are now endemic to Jamaica, so we have to remain vigilant,” said Bailey-Small.

“It is very important for us to pay special attention to these diseases and do what we can do. I know we repeat it at these meetings, but it is important for us to pay special attention to these diseases. It is important for us to do our part in making sure that we limit the vector in our surroundings,” Bailey-Small advised.

Meanwhile, Robbie Linton, public health inspector for St James, reported that the St James Health Department is maintaining its larvicidal activities to reduce mosquito breeding and thereby reduce the spread of diseases like dengue.

“Our larvicidal activities continued in the high-risk communities, at key premises and key areas during the period of April, and indices for this month are reduced compared to the month of March. We continue to revisit communities to assess the effectiveness of our intervention strategies,. We visited 124 communities in April, compared to 95 which were visited in March,” said Linton.

In addition to the reduced Aedes index, St James’ current Breteaux index, which is used to measure the number of containers found to be positive for mosquito breeding sites per 100 households, was recorded at 12 per cent for April, down from 15 per cent in March.

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