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A Call for Vigilance against the Spread of Dengue

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Contact: Janelle Charles

Monday, February 11, 2002 - The Ministry of Health says there is no need for alarm or panic, over threats being posed by the disease, Dengue Fever, but is urging citizens to be vigilant and to take the necessary action towards preventing an epidemic. For the very first time St. Lucia is recording cases of Dengue Fever caused by the Dengue Type III (3) virus, but the numbers are small when total population figures are taken into consideration.

In an Address to the Nation Monday night the Minister of Health, Honourable Damian Greaves spoke on how the viral disease dengue is transmitted, explained the different strains of the disease and noted that in the last five years there has been a worldwide re-appearance of Dengue and Dengue Haemorrhagic fever. He says according to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) there is an increased frequency of epidemics and geographic expansion of both the mosquito vector and the disease.

“So clearly this increase in the dengue fever situation is not unique to Saint Lucia. Dengue is not new to this country. In fact we have, before last year, experienced two epidemics of the disease: that was in 1978, when 117 cases were reported and 1986 when 164 cases were reported. On both such occasions the disease was caused by the dengue type II virus. What is, however, new this year is that for the very first we are seeing cases of Dengue fever caused by the Dengue Type III virus,” the Minister said

According to Minister Greaves this development has two implications. It means that the local population not exposed to Dengue Type III is now at risk and that its presence predisposes the public to the severer form of Dengue fever – Dengue Haemorrhagic fever - which can be fatal.

“Since the type III strain of the virus was detected in July last year, the Ministry can confirm that there have been 59 confirmed cases of Dengue fever Type III. There are also 295 suspected cases: that is cases, which have been reported by doctors after examining patients but these have not been confirmed by laboratory tests. The listening and viewing public should place these figures in their right context, since we are talking about 59 confirmed cases out of a population of 151, 000 persons,” the Minister explained.

Notwithstanding the statistics and given that the mosquito that carries the Dengue fever is present in 25 percent of households in some communities, there is a real potential for an epidemic.

The Ministry of Health, for its part, is stepping up its mosquito control operations and is urging households to take appropriate action to control the mosquito population. Such actions include storing water in closed containers, using soil instead of water in flower vases and discarding properly, tyres, cans, bottles and similar items which can collect water.


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