Nadisha Hunter, Staff Reporter
Gov't increases efforts but Opposition says not enough being done in dengue fight
The Ministry of Health's dengue-control programme is facing criticism from Opposition Spokesman on Health, Dr Ken Baugh, who has declared it is not as comprehensive and intensive as it ought to be if it is to put an end to what has now been recognised as an outbreak of the disease.
Yesterday, the ministry indicated during a press conference that there has been a notable increase in the number of persons affected, with 1,215 suspected cases reported up to September 29, compared to the 887 cases on record last year and the 3,202 cases during 2010 when there was also an outbreak.
There have been five suspected deaths with one confirmed via autopsy.
"It is a cause for concern. I think the Ministry of Health has to intensify its activities. As a physician in practice, I am seeing quite a few cases of people with dengue and people are complaining that there are still mosquito infestations in certain areas," Baugh told The Gleaner yesterday.
His response came shortly after the ministry confirmed the outbreak of the illness with all parishes affected to date during the press conference held at the ministry's head offices in downtown Kingston.
Baugh said the ministry's surveillance efforts have to be strengthened so that it can identify the areas where the vector mosquito is present in large numbers and to see to what extent it can be brought under control.
"It is still at a stage where it can be controlled, where the cycle can be broken and the epidemic can be brought under control, but the ministry does have to intensify its actions," he said.
"Fogging is good, yes, at a certain stage, but the way it is now they will have to do aerial spraying. If they wait too long, then the numbers will get too great," he said.
Health Minister Fenton Ferguson said the ministry has committed a further $14 million to fight the spread of the illness in addition to almost $12 million that has already been spent on the dengue activities.
He said the ministry has been undertaking major education campaigns, extensive fogging exercises and treatment and destruction of breeding sites in sections of the island.
"I want to assure the public that the ministry is doing all it can at this time to limit the impact of dengue fever on the population. We ask that you take your responsibility to search for and destroy breeding sites around your home seriously as this is the only way we can make any meaningful impact," he argued.
Meanwhile, Director of Health Promotion and Protection, Dr Kevin Harvey, said special emphasis would be placed on the Corporate Area where the number of cases continues to climb.
Of the suspected cases of dengue, close to half are reported to be in the Kingston and St Andrew area.
He added that focus would also be placed on St Catherine and Manchester where the numbers are also high.
"We are intensifying our actions in Kingston and St Andrew, in particular, to try and make an impact and also in Manchester and St Catherine.
"Over the coming days, you will see an intensified activity within the Kingston and St Andrew area and increased fogging visits to your house in attempts to reduce the breeding sites," he said.