Virgin Islands (Br.)
Dengue Fever has arrived in the British Virgin Islands in numbers. This was inevitable considering that the virus has, over the past several months, jumped from country to island to island, finally encircling the British Overseas Territory from St. Kitts and St. Maarten to the south and Puerto Rico to the north.
This Vector Control Programme Manager, whose responsibility it is to track communicable diseases in the country and halt its spread, has been tracing the run of Dengue on Tortola all along. However, this information remained privileged, until now. The decision to release the details of the investigatory work of the VC Programme Manager, the Surveillance Officer Athelene Linton and the Health Information Officer Tracia Smith,was the purview of the Surveillance Committee of the Ministry of Health. The call to go public with an Outbreak Alert was made on December 04, 2008.
The VCP Manager and the Surveillance Officer were charged with the task of drafting of a press release. The draft was subsequently edited by the Ministry’s Communications Officer Nadia James-Lord who submitted the story to the media under the GIS banner in two parts.
All radio and television outlets in the BVI carried them, but not necessarily in the same form. The following is the story as it appears on BVIPLATINUM.COM, save for the bolded, bracketed and italicised words, which are those of the Coaltition. It is a merger of the two parts, which were published unchanged in BVINEWSONLINE.COM (1, 2):
The Environmental Health Division (EHD) is urging the public to take preventative steps to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquito and reduce the spread of Dengue fever in the Territory.
This is following the Ministry of Health and Social Development’s announcement that it has seen an increase in the number of reported Dengue Cases in the Territory since late October.
A Government Information Service (GIS) release stated that surveillance activities conducted by the ministry’s epidemiology unit have logged 36 Suspected Cases of Dengue Fever for the period mid-October to early December.
Of these, 32 samples were sent for testing at the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) in Trinidad and Tobago and to a private laboratory in Puerto Rico. The remaining four samples are currently awaiting shipment.
To date, seven cases have been confirmed. These comprise of six (6) cases contracted locally and one imported case (from St. Martin), with multi-serotypes or different strains of the virus having been identified for the for the positive cases.
Dengue cannot be transmitted from person to person and the Vector Control Unit is encouraging all residents to take the recommended measures to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes and the potential spread of the disease.
The fever is a flu-like illness that is transmitted by the bite of an infected female Aedes aegypti mosquito. Aedes is a domestic mosquito which breeds in clear or clean standing water in and around the home.
The classic signs and symptoms of Dengue include a very high fever, an intense frontal headache, pain behind the eyes or retro-orbital pain as well as muscle and joint pains.
Additionally, infected persons may also develop a rash. If this occurs, persons are advised to seek immediate medical attention.
Vector Control Programme Manager Mr. Minchington Israel advises that certain preventative measures can be taken to eliminate the mosquito and its breeding sites.
- Flower vases and flower pots with saucers filled with water should be emptied and saucers wiped clean weekly since they are good breeding ground for mosquito larvae.
- Wet flower pots be replaced with dirt or alternatively, gravel or ornamental stones may be used with the water level below the stones.
- Cisterns should be sealed with concrete and downspouts covered with mosquito netting, cloth, plastic or another suitable cover. Buckets, pails and other such containers used to store water indoors should be kept tightly covered to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes.
- Items such as old tyres should be disposed of at the incinerator plant, punctured or secured under shelter to prevent the collection of water.
Mr. Israel further suggests that any other items such as discarded laundry tanks, sinks, face basins, buckets, toilet bowls, bottles, tin cans, shoes and toys that can collect water, and become potential breeding sites, should be also properly disposed of at the incinerator plant, turned over or secured under shelter.
The Vector Control Unit also recommends that pet owners wash their pet dishes with a rag or a sponge weekly to destroy mosquito eggs.
Furthermore, the unit advocates that roof guttering should also be cleaned weekly to ensure that dirt and leaves do not trap rain water and allow mosquitoes to breed. All gardening equipment such as watering pans, shovels and wheelbarrows should also be secured under shelter or turned over to prevent the collection of water.
(The weekly routine for managing mosquito breeding places is based on the roughly seven-day life cycle of the Dengue mosquito.)
More to come…