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Dengue fears rise in St James as mosquito population grows

Published:Friday | October 9, 2020 | 12:09 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Sherika Lewis, the acting chief public health inspector for St James.
Sherika Lewis, the acting chief public health inspector for St James.


The St James health authorities are raising concerns about the parish’s Aedes index, the indicator for the geographical spread of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the dengue virus, as it has jumped from 11.5 per cent in May to 13.2 per cent in September, with indications that it will continue to increase.

Sherika Lewis, the acting chief public health inspector for St James, gave the forecast yesterday at the monthly meeting of the St James Municipal Corporation.

“For the month of September, 17,656 premises were inspected, 2,341 of which were positive for mosquito breeding. This brings the Aedes index to 13.2 per cent,” said Lewis. “We have inspected over 3,000 more premises when compared to the month of August, hence the Aedes index is expected to increase.”

The latest Aedes index figure is a significant jump from the 11.5 per cent reported for August and a far cry from the record low of 6.2 per cent for the parish in May this year.

Lewis said a key factor contributing to the increase in mosquito-breeding sites is the improper securing of water containers by homeowners.

“We inspected 56,000 containers [during September], 4,200 of which were positive for mosquito breeding. So we want to implore residents that although you may be storing water in containers, you need to take all precautions to ensure that the containers are covered properly to prevent the entry and breeding of mosquitoes,” said Lewis.

Lewis said that St James’ vector-control programme, which has been working on a daily basis to control the mosquito population, is expected to resume operations in two weeks.

“The enhanced vector-control programme, which was equipped with 94 task workers, came to an end on October 2. We have a proposed date of recommencement for October 20, and we are hoping to retain all 94 workers,” she informed the municipal corporation.

St James’ increased mosquito Aedes index is extremely worrisome at a time when the parish has recorded 568 confirmed COVID-19 infections and 12 deaths up to Wednesday, the highest in the county of Cornwall.

In March, then Montego Bay Mayor Homer Davis suggested that a combination of the coronavirus pandemic and a dengue fever outbreak could pose a significant dilemma for the health services.