Under review

Ministry investigating suspected cases of chikungunya

The Ministry of Health is investigating seven suspected cases of the mosquito-borne Chikungunya
in Barbados, even as one senior health official bemoans the slowness of the law in dealing with people harbouring the insects that cause that illness as well as dengue fever.

The ministry said in a statement last evening that samples from the people who presented with symptoms of the disease were sent the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad for testing yesterday and the results were expected soon.

Routine testing of any patient with symptoms of Chikungunya have been conducted since December 2013 when the disease was first reported in the region.

There have been over 6,000 confirmed cases of Chikungunya in about 11 Caribbean countries since December 2013 but the ministry stressed that to date, no cases have been confirmed.

Acting Prinicpal Health Officer Cameron Carrington.
Acting Prinicpal Health Officer Cameron Carrington.

With the possibility of the disease reaching Barbados’ shores, Acting Principal Health Officer Cameron Carrington said last night that the length of time spent on prosecuting people responsible for  illegal dump sites, unkempt vacant lots, and discarded motor vehicles on the roadside that breed mosquitoes, is frustrating those in his department.

“We’ve tried the law, but the court system is pretty long and drawn out. I have been involved with a case since 2007 and that case is still ongoing, so many of
the officers may be a little reluctant,” he told a meeting of Christ Church Constituency Councils called to discuss Chickugunya and dengue preparedness at Foundation School.

“Sometime in July/August coming up we are going to be serving approximately 10,000 notices to person who own vacant lots across Barbados. Every year, over 10,000 notices or so [are sent] to get persons to clean vacant lots,” he said, adding that many notices are ignored.

“When we send [the notices] out and they don’t clean, then we have the option to clean. It used to be seven cents a square foot, so persons used to purposely leave the lots not cleaned for us to clean it, because they see it as a cheaper thing for them. It was raised to 18 cents to clean the lots and we’re seeing some success in terms of the lots being cleaned.”

Carrington said that at last count, there were 365 illegal dumpsites across the island.

These provide harbour for the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries both Chikungunya and dengue.

The symptoms of Chikungunya are also similar to dengue fever. They may include a sudden high fever, headache, rash, nausea and muscle pain. However, stiffness and severe joint pain, especially in the wrists, knuckles or ankles are more often associated with Chikungunya. Fever may last from a few days to a few weeks and some infected patients have reported debilitating arthritic pain persisting for weeks or months. Severe forms of the disease do not frequently occur.

The public has been advised to take simple measures to protect themselves and their families from contracting Chikungunya, including spraying inside their homes with insect repellent to kill adult mosquitoes and discarding old containers, buckets, tyres and coconut shells where mosquitoes may breed.

The Ministry of Health is also advising householders to conduct weekly checks of their premises to remove potential mosquito breeding places. (GA/BGIS)


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