Public Health authorities are dealing with five new suspected cases of dengue fever, in addition to one confirmed and six suspected cases previously reported on Grand Cayman.
Two of the patients have no recent travel history to countries with dengue fever – raising the spectre that the Aedes aegypti mosquito could be spreading the dangerous tropical disease locally.
The three other patients with suspected cases are said to have recently travelled to areas with dengue fever, including Honduras and Jamaica.
On Saturday, Director of Public Health Dr. Kiran Kumar said it will take between five and 10 days for lab analysis in Florida to confirm whether or not the patients have contracted dengue fever.
These most recent cases were reported to the Department of Public Health Friday and Saturday.
It takes to 11 the number of suspected cases being monitored by the Department, in addition to one confirmed case.
The latest cases mean there are now four people on Grand Cayman with dengue fever-like symptoms that have not travelled recently to countries with dengue fever.
Dr. Kumar cautioned it is possible more people are seeking medical attention for dengue fever-like symptoms (which can be similar to flu symptoms) due to recent media reports on the issue.
Although dengue fever is not endemic to the Cayman Islands, the Aedes aegypti mosquito is present on Grand Cayman and its population is estimated to have surged by 1,300 per cent in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan.
However, recent samples indicate populations may be down due to spraying and other targeted programmes, said Bill Petrie, director of the Mosquito Research and Control Unit.
Since first receiving confirmation of a dengue fever case in Grand Cayman 15 October, the MRCU has been targeting both areas where Aedes aegypti numbers are known to be high and areas around the homes of patients.
The mosquito is thought to be most prevalent in areas of George Town – particularly Windsor Gardens – and parts of West Bay.
The mosquito – which mainly lives and breeds around residential areas – flies only relatively short distances. This means it is absolutely critical that residents upturn any standing water in and around their home for their own safety, Mr. Petrie said.
‘We’re not asking people to do our job, we are urging people to help themselves as well as the MRCU and public by cleaning up around their yard – upturn buckets, wheelbarrows and any other containers with standing water in it; drain planting pots; and clean your gutters, because they often get missed.’
Two key elements in the MRCU’s fight against the mosquito is using handheld foggers to spray adult populations and dropping granules to kill larvae. Spraying with a fogging truck can also be useful. Because the mosquito is only active during the day, aerial spraying is less effective because the chemical used is frustrated by the daytime heat.
Dr. Petrie rejected an earlier Net News story that claimed one of the MRCU’s pilots had resigned, ‘reducing the emphasis that can be put on aerial prevention of the disease.’
‘We have one pilot that sprays for the first half of the year and then a second guy that does the second half of the year. So no one has resigned, and at no time have our aerial operations been in any way affected by a lack of aerial personnel,’ Mr. Petrie explained.
Discussing the situation at a Cabinet press briefing Thursday, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said he believed government authorities are doing everything they can to advise residents of what precautions to take and to minimize the risk of local transmission.
But Cayman cannot fully protect itself from the dengue outbreak that has swept the region, he indicated.
‘People who are travelling back and forth obviously will create exposure. We can’t tell people not to travel to these jurisdictions, we can only advise them to be cautious … Those are risks that are inherent and we have to live with them,’ he said.
‘As we all know there is no anti-virus vaccine or cure for dengue. It is something that occurs and you simply have to wade through it until it goes away.’