Cayman on alert for dengue cases

Public health officials in Cayman
say they are keeping a close eye on whether local cases of dengue fever emerge
as the mosquito-borne disease nears epidemic levels across the Caribbean.

“Although we had three confirmed
cases reported in January this year, there have been no other dengue cases
reported since then and the Cayman Islands is still considered to be dengue
free,” said the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority Medical Officer of
Health, Kiran Kumar.

“However, especially with the
regional outbreak in mind, we are not complacent and medical personnel are on
high alert to look for any local cases,” he added.

There have been reports of dengue
outbreaks in Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil,  Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican
Republic, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico,
Peru, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela and along the Gulf Coastal
states in the US.

Dengue is reaching epidemic levels
in some of these countries, with dozens of deaths being reported in Caribbean
and Central America. The increase in cases is being blamed on warm weather and
unusually early rainy seasons, which have led to an explosion in mosquitoes,
health officials across the region have reported.

“Dengue fever is caused by a virus,
but a mosquito biting a person with dengue fever can spread the virus to
another person. Hence persons, who develop symptoms within two to three weeks
of having returned from countries with dengue cases, are advised to consult
their physician,” Dr. Kumar said.

The three cases in January were the
first endemic dengue cases reported in Cayman. Previous cases have been reported
in Cayman, but those were of individuals who had contracted the fever

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

The incubation period – the time
the infection takes to develop before it shows symptoms – is usually four to
seven days; but can be up to three weeks.

The Public Health Department
advises that, as there is no vaccine or specific medication to treat dengue
infection, people travelling to known dengue endemic countries should take
preventive measures such as using a repellent, wearing protective clothing,
using air conditioning indoors or only opening screened windows and doors and
staying indoors during early dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

Even as there are no local cases of
dengue fever, the dengue carrier – the Aedes aegyptii mosquito – is present in
the Cayman Islands, making transmission of the disease possible. “The only real
protective measure is avoiding mosquito bites,” Mr. Kumar said.

Upon report of a suspected dengue
case, the Public Health Department would immediately inform the Mosquito
Research and Control Unit and the Department of Environmental Health of the
suspected case and they would take measures as if it was a case of dengue fever
and enhance their mosquito control measures around the residence of the case.