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Chik-V 'numbers game' over

Published:Friday | September 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Ferguson says ministry changing approach to combat virus

With widespread concerns that the Ministry of Health is grossly under-reporting the impact of the chikungunya virus (chik-V) on Jamaica, Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson has said that a decision had been made to discontinue the announcement of confirmed cases.

The latest data from the health ministry was that Jamaica now had 35 confirmed cases of chikungunya, which is spread by the day-biting Aedes aegypti mosquito. The minister is also reporting that persons are now displaying symptoms of both dengue fever and chikunguyna simultaneously.

Ferguson said the focus has now been shifted from "this numbers game" to looking at a joint ministerial approach. This decision led to a meeting yesterday with officials from several government ministries and agencies, including tourism; transport and works; and the National Water Commission.

Ferguson said the ministry is now concentrating on building consensus around killing the breeding sites, thereby combating the twin threats of dengue and chikungunya.

This decision comes on the heels of the acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Kevin Harvey, projecting that between 30 and 60 per cent of the population could eventually be infected with the chikungunya virus. This translates to between 800,000 and 1.6 million Jamaicans.

"Every single individual is susceptible to chikungunya, and the mosquito that carries it is everywhere, so we are expecting that the parishes that are not yet impacted will be impacted," Harvey said.


However, he said the majority of the cases would be mild, adding that chik-V has a fatality rate of less than one per cent.

Harvey said at this stage, health authorities could only try to make the spread as slow as possible, to make it incremental, and not an explosive situation that it is going to take out a significant number of the population at one time.

In the meantime, supermarkets and pharmacies across the island have been reporting a shortage of various painkillers and mosquito repellants due to the chik-V scare.

However, the health ministry is assuring that there is no shortage, and is advising persons that there are various medications on the market containing acetaminophen or paracetamol that can be used to help relieve the pain. However, they must avoid anything with aspirin.

Reports are on the increase that hundreds of students, teachers and workers from across the island have been calling in sick due to chikungunya-like symptoms.

Yesterday, there was the forced adjournment of one of four criminal courts at the Home Circuit Court, following reports that two of the jurors in a murder case were experiencing chikungunya-like symptoms.

High Court judge Justice Gloria Smith requested that the Supreme Court building in downtown Kingston be urgently fumigated over fears that chikungunya could seriously cripple the court's operations, adding to the already large backlog of cases.

David Wan, president of the Jamaica Employers' Federation, said the organisation is now doing an assessment among its members to determine the impact. However, he said he did not expect the impact to be significant, as persons were being off for days not weeks.

See related story on A3.