$1 billion more for dengue fight – Tufton 

The Cabinet has approved $1 billion in additional funding as the Government intensifies its fight against dengue which has been affecting most of the country since 2018.

Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, made the disclosure in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, as he updated the country on the steps being taken to battle the mosquito-borne virus that has sickened nearly 12,800 Jamaicans resulting in an estimated 61 deaths, 44 of which occurred in 2019.

Tufton said the money will be spent over three months and will, among other things, be used to procure 35 vector control vehicles with mounted foggers, tablets for water treatment, and payment for some one thousand temporary vector control workers. It is in addition to the estimated $580 million expended to date as part of the Administration’s dengue response.

The one thousand temporary workers will be kept on for at least six months after the outbreak has been declared at an end.

Tufton told the House that the “enhanced intervention” includes the establishment of a National Dengue Coordination Committee, “as we seek to include a multisectoral/agency response”.

The Health and Wellness Minister said the key ministries, agencies and departments that will be called into action include:

The Ministry of Local Government, the Social Development Commission, the National Solid Waste Management Authority, the Ministry of Education and the National Works Agency.

The Minister told the House that as at November 7, 2019, Jamaica had recorded 61 suspected/confirmed deaths, of which 17 were in 2018 and 44 in 2019.

Additionally, as of November 7, 2019, the Ministry’s National Surveillance Unit had recorded a total of 12,794 notifications for dengue since January 1, 2018.

Of that number, 2,235 were recorded in 2018 and 10,559 since 2019.

“Of the 12,794 notifications for the period, 7,179 cases, with dates of onset in the period under review, have been classified as suspected, presumed or confirmed (1,065 with dates of onset in 2018 and 6,114 (85 per cent) with dates of onset in 2019,” Tufton revealed.

He noted that the majority of the suspected/presumed/confirmed cases were female, with persons in the age group 25 to 59-years most affected, followed by the five to 14-year-old age cohort.

The Health and Wellness Minister said the highest rate of dengue cases was among the five to 14-year-olds, followed by children one to 4-years-old.

“Mr Speaker, it cannot be overstated that the pace and intensity of the interventions are now taking its toll on health care workers. The Ministry is currently making efforts to increase the staff complement to affected areas to provide more opportunities for breaks as needed and to reduce the risk of burnout,” said Tufton.

He also made a plea for Jamaicans to donate blood in light of the protracted dengue outbreak.

“The Ministry’s blood transfusion service is challenged to keep up with the demand for blood platelets to treat the serious/severe dengue cases. The Blood Bank will continue its drive to increase its blood supply and I wish to make an emphatic appeal to members of the public, who are able to, to donate blood today,” Tufton pleaded.

The Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) has declared a pandemic in the Latin America and Caribbean Region, with more than two million cases and some eight hundred deaths in the first seven months of this year.