Barrington Flemming – Staff Reporter
With the island now experiencing a Dengue Fever outbreak, the St. James Health Department will step up its multi-million-dollar heightened vector control programme in the parish today, to stave off any possible case of Dengue Fever when it engages the service of the National Works Agency to clean a number of problematic drains across the parish.
The problem areas include sections of Railway Lane, sections of the Charles Gordon Market, Catherine Hall and Rosemount Gardens.
The drain-cleaning programme will complement the three-month-long campaign which started on Saturday and ends on March 22, 2019, with visits to schools for the destruction of mosquito breeding sites and fogging.
Lennox Wallace, Chief Public Health Inspector for the parish of St. James, told the Western Mirror in an interview that this morning’s meeting with the NWA is another aspect of the multi-agency campaign to keep the parish safe from Dengue Fever, as St. James is yet to register a case.
“Following Minister Tufton’s announcement on Thursday that there was a Dengue Fever outbreak and a subsequent meeting with us, we made contact with the Ministry of Education to have schools open their windows and doors (starting Saturday and Sunday) so we can do fogging in the evening, as we would have carried out inspection and destruction of mosquito breeding sites earlier in the day”.
In addition, Wallace said the health department will employ additional personnel to boost its efforts to take its programme to every community.
“We are going to be employing an additional 40 temporary workers, some of whom would have been trained to deal with the Zik V last year, to join other workers as our programme is going to be seven days a week; there will be no letting up,” Wallace explained. “We have the resources and will have the personnel to keep the programme going efficiently for the stipulated period.”
Responding to concerns expressed by the public about the ineffectiveness of temporary workers in the past, Wallace said:
“The workers will be properly identified and supervised by the Public Health Inspector and physical inspections of premises will be done of homes and other areas and treatment of water sources will also be carried out. We will be looking at cans and feeding pans and bowls for animals or pets, drums for storage of water. So, we are not going to rely on what people are saying,” he disclosed.
In addition, he says the team will also visit Westgate Hills, Granville and Lilliput and two other areas where tyre garages are prevalent to carry out treatment, remove old tyres and transport them to the dump site.
Meanwhile, Steve Morris Chief Public Health Inspector for Westmoreland, which has been highlighted as one of the parishes with highest suspected cases of Dengue Fever, says the challenge is great in the parish.
“In 2017 we had 36 suspected cases of Dengue Fever, but in 2018, we have a sharp increase moving to 117 suspected cases with four confirmed cases. So, our vector control programme, which should have ended on December 28, will be extended to the next 12 weeks. So, we will be employing an additional 25 persons to ramp up our programme.”
Mr. Morris says “most of the suspected cases have been in the Savanna-la-Mar, Little London, Negril areas, but we also have to concentrate on areas where we have limited water supplies where people store water in drums and buckets and so on, so we will visit those communities as well and carry out prevention and treatment activities as this is one of our biggest challenges.”
Some of the problem areas include Belmont, Darliston, Bethel Town, Grange Hill, Jerusalem Mountain and many areas in Eastern Westmoreland, where many persons are forced to store water.
Mr. Morris says while they will be engaging the National Solid Waste Management Authority and the NWA, residents will have to play their part in cleaning up the areas affected.
“We will be working assiduously to reduce the number of adult mosquitoes and to destroy the breeding sites, so we need the cooperation of residents in this process.”
On Thursday, Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health, announced that the island was on Dengue Fever outbreak with 830 reported cases, 123 reported in December, which surpasses the 96-case threshold for a Dengue Fever epidemic to be declared. Minister Tufton also announced that 250 million dollars was provided to boost vector control. He also announced that health centres, including the Type Five Health Centre in St. James would be opened for extended hours.