24th November, 2020–PAHO is advising the Caribbean to urgently get a grip on containing the spread of dengue fever, as 2.7 million cases, many of whom are children, have been recorded in the Caribbean, Latin America and North America thus far for 2020.
Dr. Yitades Gebre, PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the ECC, recently stated: “We need to do it all – governments need to provide leadership, clear communication and strong public health measures and resources and partnerships.
“Individuals need to do their part in avoiding bites by mosquitoes, keeping homes free of the vector, personal protection and caring for most vulnerable in the family such as children and persons with chronic illness; and seeking medical attention early, when feeling sick.”
The PAHO/WHO Representative spoke during a webinar organized by the Barbados and ECC office, entitled “Dengue Response in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic”.
Dr. Gebre outlined several factors which may be contributing to the noted increase in dengue cases during the current COVID-19 pandemic in Barbados and the ECC.
- Possible underreporting of dengue.
- Delayed medical consultation of dengue cases with warning signs as a result of COVID-19 pandemic containment measures or as the result of fear of COVID-19 exposure in health care services by the population.
- Focus of the health care services on COVID-19 response.
- Interruption of fogging and other vector control activities
- Laboratory overload for confirmation of severe cases and lack of supplies for surveillance.
To date, PAHO has spent US$ 345,000 working with Barbados and ECC countries, especially those with the highest dengue cases, to accelerate the implementation of their integrated management strategies for dengue response plans.
Ms. Thais Dos Santos, PAHO Advisor, Surveillance and Control of Arbovirus Diseases, said of the four serotypes of dengue, serotypes 3 and 4 are currently in circulation in the Caribbean.
Comparing 2019 to 2020, Ms. Dos Santos described 2019 as having “the most dengue cases in the history of dengue in the Americas”, adding that “this year, 2020, we looked like we were heading in the same direction”. However, due to lockdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Dos Santos said, “persons were not travelling around as much, thus resulting in a decrease in reported dengue cases.”
Dengue is a communicable disease which is spread from an infected person to another by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito.
Participants in the webinar also received updates from three countries which are currently implementing strategies to address outbreaks of dengue while simultaneously addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
From January to October, 2020, St. Vincent reported 1,473 cases and 6 deaths; Grenada recorded 318 dengue fever cases and four cases of severe dengue; and St. Lucia recorded more than 1,000 dengue cases and three deaths.
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the unusually high number of children with severe dengue and clinical presentation has added to the resource demands at the hospital level of care.
The early recognition of symptoms of dengue is paramount. To this end the capacity of the health workers at the first level of care in the diagnosis and appropriate clinical management of dengue needs to be enhanced through training.
PAHO has been working with the countries in the sub-region, especially those with the highest burden of the dengue disease, to accelerate the implementation of their integrated management strategies for dengue response plans.