With 23 locally-contracted cases of dengue fever during the last four months, the tropical illness can now be considered endemic to the Cayman Islands, according to the Public Health Department.
The latest dengue figures released by the Cayman Islands Public Health Department show that 34 people in Cayman contracted dengue fever since September 2012, the highest number recorded in three decades.
Of those 34 cases, 23 contracted the virus after being bitten by infected mosquitos locally, meaning the disease is endemic in Cayman. Dengue had not been considered endemic in the Cayman Islands previously.
The 11 others of the 34 cases had travelled to other countries where dengue is endemic, so they are assumed to have been infected outside Cayman.
“We were having sporadic cases in the past and as we have 23 locally-transmitted cases, [the] public need to take the mosquito control measures in their yards – eliminating breeding places and protecting from mosquito bites, while the Mosquito Research and Control Unit does their part,” said Dr. Kiran Kumar, medical officer of health.
The first locally-contracted case of dengue in the Cayman Islands was recorded in 2010. In that year, four of the seven cases reported in Cayman were found to have been locally contracted. One local case was reported in 2011.
Statistics released by the Cayman Islands Public Health Department on 10 January showed that, as of 5 January, 95 suspected cases had been investigated. That involves sending samples from suspected dengue patients to the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre, or CAREC, laboratory in Trinidad and Tobago for testing.
With nine results still pending as of 5 January, the results from CAREC showed that 34 samples were positive for the dengue virus, 48 were negative, and four were inconclusive.
Dr. Kumar confirmed that the number of cases seen in Cayman in 2012 were the highest recorded here since records were first kept three decades ago.
Since the last update from the Public Health Department as of 22 December, 2012, four new cases are under investigation. None of the four had a travel history to an endemic area. Three are residents of George Town and one from Bodden Town.
CAREC reported results of 17 of the suspected cases last week, showing that three were positive for dengue.
Of all the confirmed cases, 25 have been from West Bay, five from George Town and four from Bodden Town. Among the locally-contracted cases, 19 were from West Bay, two from George Town and two from Bodden Town.
According to the update, 25 people have been hospitalised for treatment. These include 13 confirmed cases, nine whose subsequent test results showed they did not have dengue fever and three whose results were still pending.
During the past 10 years, the highest number of cases reported in a single year was nine in 2007. All nine cases were believed to have been contracted while the individuals were visiting countries where dengue is endemic.
The first case of locally-contracted dengue was reported in 2010 and five people were infected by mosquitos in Cayman that year. Last year, no locally-contracted cases were reported, although two imported cases were recorded.
Dengue fever is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also capable of spreading yellow fever. This breed of mosquito lives primarily off human blood so it lives around people, in yards and gardens by their homes and is active throughout the day and not just at dawn and dusk like other mosquitoes.
The symptoms of dengue are high fever, severe headache, backache, joint pains, nausea and vomiting, eye pain and rash. There is no vaccine or specific medication to treat dengue infection.
As the number of cases grew, the Cayman Islands Mosquito Research and Control Unit increased mosquito repellent sprayings. Both the mosquito control unit and the Public Health Department issued advice to the public on how to clear their yards and homes of items that could hold water and become breeding areas for the Aegus aegypti mosquito.