Cases of the dreaded dengue fever have been rising in the Caribbean with Barbados being the latest country to report an outbreak. According to health officials on that island from January to the end of September this year, there were 518 cases of the disease as compared to 241 cases in the same period in 2022.
In September, 28 of the 40 confirmed dengue cases for the year were registered. Barbados is not the only island experiencing a dramatic rise in dengue fever cases. As of September 26, Jamaican health officials have reported at least 1,060 suspected, presumed, and confirmed cases of dengue, more than ten times the approximately 100 cases recorded in total in 2022.
In the Bahamas, 163 cases have been recorded, along with the death of a nine-year-old boy.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has reported the following cases of the disease in the Eastern Caribbean so far this year:
-Antigua and Barbuda: 22 cases
-Grenada: 589 cases (1 death)
-Guadeloupe: 6,106 cases (5 deaths)
-Martinique: 7,074 cases (3 deaths)
-Montserrat: 2 cases
-Saint Kitts and Nevis: 5 cases
-Saint Lucia: 28 cases
-Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: 14 cases
No cases have been reported in Dominica.
Due to the rise of the disease in the region, PAHO and the World Health Organization (WHO) have issued an Epidemiological Alert, encouraging regional countries to review their preparedness and response plans, as well as continue surveillance, early diagnosis,
and timely care of dengue and other arbovirus cases, in order to prevent severe cases and deaths associated with these diseases.
“Measures to ensure proper clinical management of suspected dengue cases should be a priority,” the alert reads.
“Capacities must be strengthened at the level of primary health care and, from this level, avoid progression to severe forms and deaths from dengue.”
It adds, “In cases where dengue is suspected, healthcare workers should provide clear guidance to patients and/or families to monitor for warning signs and seek immediate medical attention should they occur. These measures will also help reduce the number of
patients who must be referred to hospitals, thus avoiding the saturation of these facilities and intensive care units.”
The alert said community involvement is necessary to help stop the spread of dengue.
“Simple Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) materials can be disseminated through various media (including social media),” it said.
“Household members should be encouraged to eliminate both residential and peri domiciliary sources of mosquito breeding. Highly productive mosquito breeding sites, such as water storage containers (drums, raised tanks, clay pots, etc.), must be subject to prevention measures to avoid vector reproduction. Other breeding sites, such as roof gutters and other water retention containers, should also be cleaned periodically. Local teams often know how to convey this information more effectively, and in many cases national campaigns and messages are not as effective as local initiatives.”
The virus that causes dengue fever is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected female mosquitoes, primarily the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and PAHO and WHO are calling for the effective use of available resources to prevent and/or control vector infestation in affected areas and in health services.
“Given the high infestation by Aedes aegypti and the presence of Aedes albopictus in the Region, it is recommended that prevention and control measures aim to reduce the density of the vector and have the acceptance and collaboration of the local population,” the alert said.
According to WHO, the symptoms of dengue may include:
-high fever (40°C/104°F)
-pain behind the eyes
-muscle and joint pains
Individuals who are infected for the second time are at greater risk of severe dengue. Severe dengue symptoms often show up after the fever has gone away:
-severe abdominal pain
-bleeding gums or nose
-blood in vomit or stool
-being very thirsty
-pale and cold skin
According to WHO, people with these severe symptoms should get care immediately.