By Aabigayle McIntosh
A senior health official is urging residents to remain vigilant following a surge in Dengue cases in Antigua and Barbuda, as well as other parts of the Caribbean.
The twin-island state has recorded a significant increase, with 22 cases of the disease.
Dengue fever is a viral illness transmitted through the bites of infected female mosquitoes, particularly the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and has become a growing concern in the region.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are calling for the efficient allocation of resources to combat the spread of the disease, emphasizing the importance of preventing and controlling mosquito infestations in affected areas and within healthcare services.
Barbados became the latest country this week to report an outbreak. According to health officials in that country 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.
“We can increase surveillance from the Ministry of Health’s standpoint but the reality is this is not something that we can do alone. We need the involvement of the public, so what can you do to help us,” Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Teri-Ann Joseph asserted.
“The message is to cover your water catchments, reduce mosquito breeding sites, and protect yourself through the use of mosquito repellents, mosquito nets, gauze on the windows and on the doors. If you suspect that you have the virus, make sure you are well covered and use repellents as well”.
Antigua and Barbuda recorded 20 cases if the virus so far for the year and health officials confirmed that figure is typical for this time of the year when there is an anticipated increase due to the rainy season.
In the meantime, Dr Joseph is also advising individuals who may seek medical attention for Dengue-related symptoms to be transparent with their medical practitioner.
“I am really making an appeal for you to give your correct number and your correct email address. This is not for us to target you in any way, it is really for us to increase the mitigation measures in your area. The reality is if you have it and a mosquito bites you then persons in your area, in your home and surroundings are likely to get it as well,” Dr Joseph said.
Dengue (break-bone fever) is a viral infection that spreads from mosquitoes to people. It is more common in tropical and subtropical climates.
Most people who get dengue won’t have symptoms. But for those that do, the most common symptoms are high fever, headache, body aches, nausea and rash. Most will also get better in 1–2 weeks. Some people develop severe dengue and need care in a hospital.
In severe cases, dengue can be fatal.