Environmental health specialists across the region have been told that much may be lost if strategies are not developed to control such vectors as the Aedes Aegypti mosquito and, consequently, dengue fever. ????????????????

Barbados’ Health Minister, Donville Inniss, made this assertion today, as he addressed the start of an Emergency Vector Control Workshop, at Grand Barbados Beach Resort, where some 36 participants from 19 Caribbean territories, will, over the three-day period address challenging issues of dengue fever affecting their countries.

Deeming the workshop timely and a means of being proactive, he said: "Failure to develop control mechanisms within the sub-region would be costly both directly and indirectly. In the first instance, there is the direct cost to the health care system in terms of medicines, hospitalisation and manpower.

"Secondly, there are economic costs which include loss of man-hours within the workforce and loss of productivity.?? The likely reduction of foreign inflows through investments, as well as lower levels of tourist arrivals, could negatively impact regional economies."

While acknowledging that the upsurge in dengue fever was occurring at a time when both developing and developed countries are experiencing a global economic downturn, he added: "Most governments in the sub-region are confronted with varying financial challenges, therefore, any increase in the numbers of dengue fever cases within the region would be a financial burden."

The Health Minister noted that the Caribbean Epidemiological Centre’s August 2010 report for the region showed that for the reporting period week 24 (July 2010), there were 872 cases of dengue fever, while for the corresponding period July 2009 there were only 242 cases. Referring to figures for dengue fever in six territories, for July 2010, Mr. Inniss pointed out that Guyana recorded 393; Trinidad and Tobago, 220; Belize, 106; Jamaica, 66 and Suriname, 24. He reported that by mid-September, Trinidad and Tobago had recorded 1,200 dengue fever cases, with four dengue fever related deaths, and Barbados 321 cases of dengue fever, with three confirmed dengue fever related deaths.

Delegates were also told that that all four serotypes were in circulation in Barbados. And the Minister revealed: "Illness resulting from the infection of one or two serotypes does not confer immunity to the other two serotypes. Not only has Barbados witnessed the arrival of serotypes 1, 2, and 4 during the 2010 period, but surveillance within the region indicates that several territories have recorded the presence of other serotypes for this year."

It was also disclosed that the Environmental Health Department had embarked on a three-month programme since August, with the main goal of reducing morbidity and mortality.?? The agency was working to reduce the mosquito population throughout the country to an index of less than two, for the duration of the programme and beyond.

The major components of the scheme include increasing the number of house- to-house inspections; investigating mosquito complaints within 48 hours; investigating suspected and confirmed cases of dengue fever; inspecting tyre shops fortnightly; inspection of underground utility junction boxes, and education.

According to the WHO, dengue fever is endemic in over one hundred countries, and 2.5 billion persons or two fifths of the world’s population are at risk. The WHO further estimates that over 50 million cases of this debilitating disease are expected to occur during this year. jgill@barbados.gov.bb

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