Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton said, based on figures received for December, the island is now facing an outbreak of dengue fever, which is a mosquito-borne disease.
“One hundred and 23 dengue cases [have been] reported – these are suspected, presumed and/or confirmed cases received for the month of December 2018. This exceeded the outbreak threshold of 96 cases for December, and is the first month for 2018 in which the number of cases exceeded the outbreak threshold,” the health minister said, adding that the figures were obtained from his ministry’s Epidemiological Unit.
Dr Tufton, during a press briefing at his ministry’s Kingston headquarters today (January 3), also noted that the outbreak is only now being confirmed, although an increase in the number of cases was detected previously.
“This has been a more active season than last year, and we have been observing and monitoring the numbers and increases with each month, but by the clinical standards could only claim an epidemic once the threshold is surpassed,” Dr Tufton said. He added that the last dengue fever outbreak on the island was in 2016.
The health minister, in the meantime, said various measures are being put in place to counter the outbreak, adding that an additional $250 million will be spent on vector control and other emergency measures. Those measures includes increased fogging in 300 communities with clusters of dengue cases.
Dr Tufton urged residents to seek medical assistance if they detect symptoms of dengue fever – which may include headache, muscle and joint pains, high fever, vomiting, and a characteristic skin rash.
He noted that there were seven suspected and two confirmed cases of dengue-related deaths for the period January to December 2018. A total of 830 reported cases were classified as suspected, presumed or confirmed up to January 3 this year.
The number of confirmed cases stands at 23 for the period January 1, 2018 to January 3, 2019.
Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer of Health in the Ministry of Health, Dr Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie, said the areas most affected by the dengue outbreak are Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine, Westmoreland, and St Ann.
She added that the Bustamante Hospital for Children is where the highest number of cases have been seen, especially since last month.