Sixteen people are believed to have died from the mosquito borne dengue fever since the outbreak of the mosquito borne disease in Jamaica last year.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jacqueline Bissasor-McKenzie, says five of those people died this month.
“As of the 17th , we have 16 suspected dengue related deaths for the period January 2018 to January 17, 2019. Of those, 11 are from 2018 and five are year to date for 2019.”
She says from the start of the year up to January 17 there were 174 suspected dengue cases.
Bissasor-McKenzie notes that the health ministry has extended opening hours at several health facilities to deal with the cases of dengue.
Health ministry to remain vigilant
As the health ministry grapples with the dengue outbreak, it is already looking ahead to the next season in which cases are again expected to spike.
Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton has said he expects the number of dengue cases to begin tapering off next month.
However, the regional health body - the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), has called for health officials across the region to prepare for the possibility of a severe outbreak of the mosquito borne virus this year.
Bissasor-McKenzie, says the ministry will remain vigilant in relation to its vector control activities.
“We will continue at the level at which we are until the outbreak is declared to be at an end. But then we will go straight into preparation for this year’s season. I think that the message from CARPHA, is that there is no room for persons to be complacent….” The Chief Medical Officer said.
Meanwhile, an additional 50 temporary vector control workers have been assigned to the St. Ann Health Department to assist in the destruction of mosquito-breeding sites.
The workers will be divided into teams and deployed to critical areas in St. Ann.
Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton says the St. Ann vector control unit will be ramping up activities, such as fogging in order to destroy breeding sites of the Aedes aegypti mosquito which transmits the dengue virus.
Vector Control Coordinator at the St. Ann Health Department, Mark Miller, says it is targeting locations in the parish that are known to have numerous mosquito-breeding sites, including - tyre shops, garages as well as schools.