By Elesha George
With hundreds of recorded dengue cases and several deaths already recorded in neighbouring St Vincent & the Grenadines and St Lucia, Sharon Martin, the Chief Health Inspector at the Central Board of Health (CBH) has sounded the alarm that “dengue is fast emerging as a pandemic around the Caribbean countries”.
According to the country’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas, Type 3 dengue is circulating in Antigua and Barbuda. Already, two people have contracted the mosquito-borne viral infection that causes a severe flu-like illness.
“There are different strains of dengue and the type that we have seen circulating so far in Antigua and Barbuda is Type 3”, she said, while declaring that, “dengue is a serious disease”.
The CMO supported Martin who made an impassioned plea to householders to work with the CBH to stop the breeding of the Aedes Egypti mosquito which carries the dengue virus.
The chief health inspector is asking adults, in particular, to be more responsible by implementing measures like covering water containers so that they will not be accessible to mosquitoes.
Martin explained that it takes only two to three days for an adult mosquito to emerge and mate before they find a blood meal.
“Who do they get the blood meal from? Us the householders. So we need to know our role and play our part. Assist us,” she appealed.
She is also advocating for persons to use kerosene or cooking oil to kill the larvae, commonly known as wrigglers.
“Once you see wrigglers, that’s a sign of mosquitoes in the making and we all know wrigglers. You tap the side of the drum, they will wiggle to the bottom but they have to come back up to breathe. They get oxygen from the air that dissolves on the surface of the water,” Martin said.
Her advice is to pour the oil in the water, which will then form a film on the surface. That film, she said, will block the absorbed oxygen on the water’s surface and in turn deprive the larvae of oxygen. Residents are also being asked to check the vases where they keep flower and dish racks to ensure that they do not retain water that will allow mosquitoes to breed.
“Make water inaccessible to mosquitoes and we wouldn’t have the preponderance of mosquitoes once we can fight them.
“I’ve never seen mosquitoes attending classes in school, college or university [but] we do, so how come we’re allowing them to win the battle over us?” she questioned
Martin said residents need to stop depending on fogging alone to get rid of the mosquitoes, because the insects are learning to adapt and survive even with the fogging.
Her stern warning is not to allow mosquitoes to get to water.
Meanwhile, the CMO is advising residents to avoid getting beaten and to know the signs of dengue.
Dengue can cause joint pain, muscle pain but can escalate to severe additional symptoms like vomiting and bleeding, which can lead to shock and even death.