This year’s World Health Day, which falls on Monday, April 7, places the spotlight on diseases spread by insects and pests.
According to a statement by Cayman Islands Health Minister Osbourne Bodden, the theme this year is even more relevant given increasing concern about the spread of the chikungunya virus, which has been reported in nine Caribbean countries.
“Although the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is responsible for the transmission of the chikungunya virus and other illnesses such as dengue and yellow fever, is present in the Cayman Islands, these diseases are not endemic to us,” Mr. Bodden said.
“Prior to 2004, it was rare for Aedes aegypti to breed locally. After the passing of Hurricane Ivan, breeding became established and widespread, until it was brought under control by the relentless efforts of the Mosquito Research Control unit. Yet with climatic factors working against us, dengue has become the fastest growing vector-borne disease around the globe. Forty percent of the world’s population is at risk from dengue, and we have not been spared here in the Cayman Islands.”
Between July 2012 and January 2013, Cayman had 37 confirmed cases of dengue fever, 12 of which were imported and 25 locally transmitted. “Since July 2013, we had only one confirmed case which was imported; we have not in recently recorded times, had a case of yellow fever,” Mr. Bodden said.
There have been no reports of chikungunya in Cayman.
He said Cayman’s Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response Team, a multi-sectoral group led by the Public Health Department, has plans in place in the event of an outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases.
The minister urged the public to combat the spread of the such diseases by unblocking gutters and drains, disposing of garbage, old tyres and anything that holds water, frequently changing water in animal bowls, potted plants or ornaments, and avoiding mosquito bites.