Dengue fever health alert signs have been posted at Owen Roberts International Airport after three cases of the disease have been confirmed in the Cayman Islands.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kiran Kumar said Monday the people with the confirmed cases had a history of travel outside of the Cayman Islands within 17 days of showing symptoms of the fever.
There are 31 other possible cases. Tests have been sent off to a laboratory and the Public Health Department is awaiting results.
The signs at the airport alert travellers arriving from the Caribbean, Central and South America.
The signs refer to the regional dengue fever outbreak in countries frequently visited by residents of the Cayman Islands. The countries on the list include Jamaica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. In Honduras more than 25,000 cases have been reported this year and the situation is described by the Public Health Department as a regional pandemic.
‘If you are arriving from any of the above countries, and over the next two weeks develop fever with two or more of symptoms such as: headache, muscle aches, rash, joint pain and pain behind the eyes, please consult your doctor immediately because you may have contracted dengue fever.’
Dr. Bill Petrie, director of the Mosquito Research and Control Unit, said the department is working to control the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is the vector for dengue fever.
‘Crews are fully mobilised and we have all hands on deck. Our staff worked overtime on the weekend,’ he said. ‘The Aedes aegypti is active (looking to bite people) in the mid to late afternoon.’
It is not typically a dawn and dusk feeder, like the grass mosquito. If people go outside it is recommended that they apply repellent that contains the chemical deet.
‘Unfortunately the weather in the region has been ideal for mosquito breeding,’ Mr. Petrie said.
There have been four aerial flights made recently specifically targeting the Aedes aegypti, but according to Mr. Petrie, the most effective strategy for the mosquito is vehicles and people on the ground with hand-held foggers. That is now the main focus of MRCU’s efforts to control the numbers of the insect.
‘People need to clean up. They need to clear their yards of containers, buckets, paint cans, anything that can hold water,’ he said.
Mr. Petrie is also asking people to check their gutters if they can because they can get blocked and provide another ideal refuge for the larvae.
‘Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water-bearing receptacles and the best way to reduce mosquito population is to remove the places where they go to breed more mosquitoes,’ he said.
Mr. Kumar explained that dengue is a viral disease that is transmitted only by mosquitoes; it cannot be transmitted person to person.
In the vast majority of cases the symptoms are reasonably mild and occasionally there can be no symptoms whatsoever; however in less than 10 per cent of cases dengue hemorrhagic fever develops and in rare cases this can be fatal.
Mr. Kumar said the Cayman Islands is fortunate to have an efficient Mosquito Research and Control Unit, which helps reduce the possibility of a major dengue outbreak.
‘I don’t see much probability of an outbreak here in Cayman because we don’t have very large numbers of the vector, the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Also, when we get a confirmed case, we alert MRCU to the specific area and they go out and intensively and strategically focus their efforts,’ he said.