Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton yesterday said that figures provided by the Epidemiological Unit confirmed that the dengue virus epidemic threshold was breached in December.
He said that the 123 dengue cases (suspected, presumed, and confirmed) reported in December, breached the threshold of 96 reported cases for the first time during 2018.
He also pointed out that the figures showed that as at yesterday, 830 reported cases have been classified as suspected, presumed, or confirmed, while the number of confirmed cases rose to 23 for the period January 1, 2018 to January 3, 2019.
Tufton told a press briefing he called at his ministry in New Kingston that in the light of this development, the Government is to step up its campaign against the dengue fever threat, by increasing funding for its activities by at least $250 million. He also pointed out that after the briefing he would be meeting with Cabinet colleagues, including Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, to seek additional support for his planned campaign.
“We have been concerned for some time and we are on record as saying that this season has been more active than last year, and we have been observing and monitoring the numbers,” Tufton said.
The Government, he added, would spend at least $250 million on containing the threat in several areas, including the employment of 500 more temporary vector control aides — increasing the complement to 1,000 — as well as providing additional hospital space for people suspected of carrying the virus, extending the public education programme, and engaging the Ministry of Local Government and the municipal councils in improving the removal of garbage.
“We can and we will overcome the challenge that we face. It is not new to us,” he assured the public.
He noted that there is evidence that most of the breeding sites for the dengue-carrying Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes are found around homes.
“We urge every Jamaican to recognise that our defence against this virus is a proactive approach and a preventative approach, which means that persons should be vigilant and aware of their surroundings,” he stated. “So the public has a very important role to play, and I want to urge us all to play our part.”
In response to the threshold being surpassed, he said that the health ministry has triggered the Emergency Operation, International Health Regulations, as well as the National Emergency Operations centres.
In addition, the ministry has designated extended opening hours for the Stony Hill, Olympic Gardens, Glen Vincent and Slipe Pen Road Comprehensive Health centres in Kingston and St Andrew; Morant Bay Health Centre in St Thomas; St Jago Park and Greater Portmore health centres in St Catherine; St Ann’s Bay Health Centre; Annotto Bay, Highgate, Oracabessa and Gayle health centres in St Mary; Mandeville Regional Hospital, and Spaulding Health Centre in Manchester; May Pen Health Centre in Clarendon; Montego Bay Type V hospital in St James; and Savanna-la-Mar Health Centre in Westmoreland.
An extended public education campaign has also commenced and will continue until the end of January 2019 involving public service announcements about mosquito breeding sites, and symptoms of dengue. In addition, personal protection tips are being shared in the print and electronic media, as well as on social media; 50,000 flyers and 50,000 brochures are presently being disseminated to the health centres and hospitals across the island.
All points of entries have been sensitised and educational materials distributed; and the ministry’s public relations unit, facilitated by the medical officers of health within the respective parishes, will engage with the parish councils and the Ministry of Local Government as it relates to the removal of domestic waste/garbage from communities.