Chik-V monitoring was delayed
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
Despite recording its first case of chikungunya in July, Jamaica only placed the disease in the tier one significance class in October, long after the mosquito-borne virus created havoc in eastern parishes and the Corporate Area.
Information contained in the Jamaica Gazette indicates that Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson signed a ministerial order on October 1, which included chikungunya fever and the Ebola virus disease on the list of diseases that must be reported to ministry forthwith.
With the inclusion of chikungunya and Ebola in the Public Health (Class 1 Notification Diseases) (Amendment) Order, 2014, if a medical practitioner "suspects that a person has contracted any of the diseases" mentioned in Class 1, "the medical practitioner shall forthwith or not later than twenty-four hours after the case is discovered", make a report to the Public Health Department for the parish in which the suspected case has been found.
The law also provides for the medical practitioner to report the suspected case to the surveillance unit of the ministry responsible for health.
REPORT ON SUSPICION
Professor Marvin Reid, director of the Tropical Metabolism Research Unit at the University of the West Indies, told The Gleaner that making chikungunya a Class 1 represented a response by the ministry to require doctors to report on suspicion "so that their numbers can be more a reflection of the real situation".
"With that, it would allow them to plan and deploy resources more appropriately," Reid said.
Four public bodies have been tapped by the Government in order to assist in the response to the chikingunya virus. The entities are The National Health Funds, which was required to put up $300 million, the Tourism Enhancement Fund, which contributed $100,000 and the CHASE and PetroCaribe Development Funds, which both contributed $50 million.
LOW CHIK-V FIGURES
Early September, when residents and medical practitioners in St Thomas began questioning the low chik-V figures, claiming that the parish was being ravaged by the virus, the Ministry of Health went on the offensive saying that its symptoms were the same as other diseases circulating.
As at September 24, some 41 cases of chikungunya were confirmed on the island, but by then the parishes of Kingston, St Andrew and St Thomas were being overrun by a flu-like virus suspected to be chikungunya.
The Ministry of Health then decided it would no longer publish figures relating to the number of chikungunya cases confirmed.
As at the end of October, Jamaica reported to the Pan American Health Organisation that it has had 709 suspected cases of chikungunya and 67 confirmed cases of the virus.
Reid said that even if chikungunya was designated a Class 1 disease earlier, "it would not have affected the outcomes that we expect as a population because the root cause is the vector and there was inadequate vector management".
"I view the notification as an attempt by the ministry to actually get a better handle, moving forward, of the disease to effectively plan and deploy resources. Even if it was a Class 1 before the outbreak, I don't think it would change the course of this particular illness."