Health officials voice concern over increased cases of dengue

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An increase in the number of cases of dengue fever in Antigua and Barbuda has perplexed at least two health officials who have been expressing their concerns.

One of those is the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Rhonda Sealey Thomas, who addressed the issue on state television on Tuesday evening.

Dengue fever is the mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus and spread by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

According to Dr Sealey Thomas, to date, an approximate total of 600 suspected and confirmed cases, and one death in March 2019, have been recorded in the country for the year.

She revealed that although there had been a decline in the number of cases detected late 2018 and earlier this year, those numbers have increased over the summer (July to September).

“I am concerned that we are seeing increases in the number of cases and we know that dengue can be asymptomatic, but it can also become a severe disease, so we really don’t want anyone from the population to get this severe dengue. Once we have the disease circulating and we do have the vector that is transporting the disease, the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, then persons are at risk.”

Dengue fever, dengue with warning signs, and severe dengue are the stages or cases of the disease. According to the CMO, all three have been detected in the twin-island state and have become “a matter of concern because persons can progress from dengue to severe dengue, which can be fatal.”

Principal Health Inspector at the Central Board of Health, Jerome Greene, who also appeared on the programme, believes these increased cases are due to the fact that residents are not adhering to the simple procedures proven to control mosquito breeding.

This, he said, adds to the overwhelming amount of work his department is faced with as they are determined to follow-up on all reported cases.

“Most of the breeding occurs on a household level where our communities, our residents, our householders have not been inclined to adhere to the simple procedures to prevent the mosquito. That is the source of the problem,” he said.

“We have to respond to all the suspected cases, and we are overwhelmed. The medical staff have challenges in terms of resources and so on. We also have to mobilise our teams, which is costly also as persons have to be paid overtime. There are times in a week where we have [investigate] 40 to 50 suspected cases.”

Despite the growing concerns shared by both officials, Dr Sealey Thomas credited health care providers for being proactive in reporting suspected cases to the Ministry of Health. This, she added, was due to the number of educational sessions the Ministry held to detect and handle symptoms.

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