Local case of dengue fever confirmed

The Public Health Department has confirmed that a local case of dengue fever has been contracted, the first such occurrence in years.

In addition, in 2005 there has been one imported case of this disease, of which Cayman usually sees two to three a year, since dengue fever is not endemic to the Islands, said Dr. Kiran Kumar, medical officer of health.

The mosquitoes known to transmit the disease, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, have a very low density locally, he explained.

The Public Health Department, in conjunction with the Mosquito Research and Control Unit and the Department of Environmental Health, is closely monitoring the situation, Mr. Kumar said.

Tim McLaughlin, public health surveillance officer, added that neither of the two cases required hospitalisation.

In the most recent confirmed case, Mr. Kumar said local transmission most likely took place when a returning resident or visitor who contracted the disease from a dengue-endemic country was bitten by a mosquito on the Islands which then bit a healthy person here, transmitting the disease.

The original infected person might only have had mild symptoms and may not have been diagnosed.

‘While this case was under investigation, MRCU was informed of this suspected incident and took appropriate control measures by reducing mosquito breeding sites and increasing chemical control methods against the mosquito larval stages and adult stage.

‘There were no more locally transmitted cases reported and all doctors and health care workers were advised to remain vigilant,’ Mr. Kumar added.

Mr. McLaughlin explained the procedure to confirm dengue fever is present.

‘The protocol is to investigate whether or not it is dengue fever or any other disease which the doctor suspects.

‘The turnaround time for dengue fever confirmation is seven to 10 days because the sample has to be sent overseas,’ he said.

After confirmation, the patient must be notified before the information becomes public.

‘The Health Services Authority lab facilitates the testing process. It packages the sample and sends it off, then receives the results and informs public health,’ Mr. McLaughlin added.

He explained that doctors need to keep an eye on patients’ symptoms and test for dengue fever if necessary.

The symptoms of dengue fever are high fever, severe headache, backache, joint pains, nausea and vomiting, eye pain and rash.

No vaccine or specific medication is available to treat dengue infection, and patients are usually given pain medications.

People normally recover from the illness within two weeks and the disease is not usually fatal, Mr. McLaughlin said.

MRCU Director Dr. Bill Petrie reiterated that the unit is stepping up their mosquito surveillance and control operations, and advises residents to assist their efforts by eliminating all potential mosquito breeding sites in their yards, for example stagnant water in pans, tires, buckets, coconut shells and derelict vehicles.

Mr. McLaughlin also stressed the importance of the public’s cooperation.

‘The public needs to remain vigilant. People should avoid going out at dawn and dusk, they should check for anything that could hold stagnant, fresh water,’ he said.

Anything can be a breeding ground, he added, such as wheelbarrows on construction sites with as little as one-half inch of water in them.

The PHD also issued an advisory to people travelling to known dengue-endemic countries to use a repellent such as Off! as much as possible, wear protective clothing limiting skin exposure, use air conditioning and only open screened windows and doors, and reduce outdoor activities during early dawn and dusk to reduce the risk of being infected.

For more information on dengue fever, call the PHD on 244-2621, or Faith Hospital on 948-2243. For advice on mosquito control measures, contact the MRCU on 949-2557 or the DEH on 949-6696 in Grand Cayman or 948-2321 on Cayman Brac.