Health officials prepare for new dengue season

Health officials say that they are
vigilant to recent reports of possible dengue fever and add that so far this
year, there have been no confirmed cases in the Cayman Islands.

Anna Matthews of the Public Health
Unit said that the lab had sent off six cases so far with four coming back
negative and two pending over the past few weeks. There are another six cases
being tested, she said, although diagnosis can be tricky as the symptoms are
similar to other ailments.

“This is flu season where we are
presented with viral illnesses that all can more or less look alike,” Dr. Matthews
said. “But because of dengue elsewhere in the region, we have to be vigilant
and test for it. There were two cases in Cayman Brac who came in, but both were
negative and have now been discharged. With fever in the respiratory tract and
pains in the joints, one of the things you have to check for is dengue as it’s
now seasonal.”

On alert

The Mosquito Research And Control
Unit’s Bill Petrie said that an early provisional confirmation of dengue fever
was also possible from a control point of view.

“We can do a quick test which is
not 100 per cent efficient, but it’s a rapid, 20-minute test. If that comes up
positive, we can immediately go and target the area in which the person lives
or works and take control measures against the mosquito.

“We do have a lot of dengue in the
Caribbean region which goes up and down from year to year. Every two or three
years the numbers increase and this year the indications are that regionally,
numbers have gone up. Public Health are on alert, as we are. The number of
investigations and reported cases go up but that does not mean the number of
cases are going up,” he added.

Mr. Petrie said that so far no
positive cases had been confirmed this year but cautioned it is still relatively
early in the season.

“We’ve had quite a wet start to the
season, not just here but in places like Barbados and so on. Honduras has a lot
of cases right now, but the big thing that’s hit the news is because it’s hit
the Florida Keys. Later in the season you’d expect a peak when it’s had more
time to build up.

“When people start coming back from
summer vacations and so on, you typically start seeing some imported cases, but
so far, nothing. We will certainly be keeping an eye on things up until
November and December when things start to cool down a bit, and we are very
vigilant,” he added.

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