Jamaican health ministry heightens chikungunya response

MarionBullockDuCasse-1Kingston, Jamaica (JIS) — Having confirmed Jamaica’s first imported case of the chikungunya virus, the ministry of health has further heightened its response to prevent the disease from spreading across the country.

“Public education is being stepped up right across the island through our vast network of healthcare workers,” stated the ministry’s director of emergency disaster management and special services, Dr Marion Bullock DuCasse.

She added: “We are also ensuring that, at our points of entry, when visitors return to the island from any of the countries where transmission is occurring, we alert them to the fact that if they display any signs and symptoms, they should check with their doctors or any of our health facilities.”

Symptoms of chikungunya, transmissible by mosquito, include high fever; headache; muscle pain; joint pain, mainly in the limbs and large joints; and a rash.

Another detection measure that the ministry is embarking on is fever surveillance. This entails household surveys being conducted within a half-mile radius of areas visited by an infected person.

Bullock DuCasse explained that where persons display symptoms deemed similar to those characterizing chikungunya, they are tested for the virus, and their movements restricted to prevent contact with other persons until their cases undergo all testing and curative procedures.

“We have already completed our fever survey for this (confirmed) case, and we continue to monitor those individuals (examined) for fever. If any of them develop signs and symptoms, we would treat them as a suspected case, they would be isolated and asked to remain under mosquito nets until their condition is ascertained,” the director said.

She assured that the ministry’s healthcare workers have been reminded of how to identify chikungunya, adding that “our laboratory capacity has also been strengthened (to analyze and treat with suspected cases).”

Although chikungunya does not often result in death, the accompanying joint pains and stiffness can last for months, and even years, and may result in chronic pain and disability for infected persons.

Infants and the elderly are at greater risk of a more severe occurrence of the disease. Factors and conditions that may increase the severity of the risk include diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease.

As of July 14 this year, the total number of confirmed chikungunya cases reported in 28 Caribbean and Latin America, was 5,227.

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