26 Cases of Dengue Fever Confirmed in San Pedro in the Last Four Weeks
Thursday, November 7th, 2013
San Pedro Town Councilor Kenrick Brackett has confirmed that since the second week of October to present date there have been 26 confirmed cases of Dengue Fever in San Pedro Town. Although this may seem like an alarming number the public is assured that through the efforts of the San Pedro Town Council and the Ministry of Health measures have already been taken and they are confident that the situation is under control. In a meeting with The San Pedro Sun, Brackett and personal from the Ministry of Health discussed the concerning issue.
According to Francis Westby, who came out of retirement to serve as the Dengue Technical Advisor attached to the Ministry of Health, a team to five people consisting of Egner Lalin who is the District Supervisor of the Vector Control Unit along with an evaluating technical person and three spray men were deployed to San Pedro on Tuesday, Nov 5th. “The spray men are in the process of spraying all of the mosquito breeding sights where we have identified the cases and other low lying areas as we drive around San Pedro. We are using a thermal spray technique in the houses where the cases are at and focal spraying around the houses to establish a buffer. In any tropical country where you have rain you will find mosquito breeding areas. We realize we cannot get rid of all of the mosquitoes so our main focus is getting rid of the ones that are infected with the Dengue virus, therefore we are doing very targeted activities at this time with the thermal spray in collaboration with San Pedro Town Council ULV spray, which is the truck going around spraying,” explained Westby. “We are also launching a bed-net program where we have for distribution 350 bed-nets for areas where Dengue has been confirmed. We will distribute these to the affected areas on Monday morning after we go on the Reef TV Morning Show. We will also be making available at the PolyClinc bed-nets for anyone who demonstrates symptoms. Once you apply these proper techniques it is very easy to control this sort of outbreak. I want to specifically state that there is no reason for concern, the numbers might seem high but I want to give the assurance that we are professionals and we have been dealing with this for a long time. We are having outbreaks all around…in Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and the fact that Belize has such a low number of Dengue cases is a manifestation of the appropriate interventions that we apply. The one thing we want to emphasize is that we are working closely with the Town Council as well as the PolyClinic and we are doing everything to contain the outbreak, and we will contain it. The important thing to do is a timely intervention, which is what we are doing. The task of Dengue control is shared with the public. There are certain, simple things that people can do, like throwing a little cooking oil if they have standing water on their property or even in their drains. Remove standing water in barrels, tires and bottles. Hotels also need to maintain their properties by routinely spraying. Screen the windows of your house too…we [the Ministry of Health] cannot do it alone,” he said.
District Supervisor of the Vector Control Unit Egner Lalin explained where the outbreaks have been identified. “What we are very much concerned about is the previous wave of Dengue we saw on the island back in the month of August was the areas were primarily San Mateo, Boca del Rio, DFC and San Marcos…most of the cases were concentrated in the northern part like Boca del Rio and San Mate o. Now it has been unevenly distributed in San Marcos, San Mateo, San Pablo, even San Pedrito…but these are just minor cases. And what we are looking at is it might seem that the control is difficult because of the constant traveling of people from one place to the other, this is a tourist destination and we have a lot of people who are living in different areas, different parts of the district coming in to work in San Pedro and that is what makes it a little bit difficult. The good thing about it is we have already identified where it is at and have confined all of our activities to that area to assure that this doesn’t grow out of proportion.”
Westby informed, “If you think you are infected you are advised to go to the PolyClinic and see a doctor. We are making it a priority to attend to patients who are suffering from Dengue-like symptoms and they need to be attended to immediately and a blood sample needs to be taken as soon as possible. It is very important that we identify these cases as soon as possible. Not only to treat the patient but we need to take the appropriate measures to contain the situation.” When asked how long it takes to get the results from the blood test, Westby replied, “Because we are using a rapid test we urge people who suspect that they have Dengue to come in within the first three days, this is when the rapid test is most effective. So don’t wait around or until you really feel like you are dying, please come in within the first three days. With the rapid test you can get the result within the hour and these tests are 99% accurate.”
So how do you know if you have Dengue? Lalin explained that the primary symptom is high fever along with retro-orbital pain, which is a throbbing pain behind the eyes along with joint and muscle pain. “Symptoms can vary and we have had individuals who come in with simple flu-like symptoms, the main thing is you have to have that fever, that is the distinguishing factor.” Westby added, “Now, anyone who suspects they are coming down with Dengue, and it is their second exposure there is a chance that they will come down with Hemorrhagic Fever. These patients must lookout for signs and symptoms, bleeding from the nose, bleeding from the gums, heavy menses, black and blue marks under the skin. If you see any of these telltale signs you need to go to the nearest hospital. The good news is that we have no reports of Hemorrhagic Fever at this time. We accredit this to our timely intervention.”
In closing Westby commented, ” I want to acknowledge the role that the Town Board was been playing in all this. From the onset they have been on-board with helping us with golf carts, the ULV spray and providing us with personal to assist us now with the distribution of bed-nets. Also when they had the Back-to-School Fair in September we were allowed a stall where we could do some promotion and distribution of pamphlets . We would also like to thank the local media in helping us get the message out and the role you all are playing, this is very important, we want people to know the truth about what is going on.”
The San Pedro Town Council will be holding a Health Fair on Wednesday, November 13th and the Department of Health will be on hand to distribute information and answer any questions you may have regarding Dengue.