This week is Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week. We never used to worry too much about these dangerous little creatures (of which the female is, in fact, deadlier than the male) – until the Chikungunya virus (Chik V) and the Zika virus came along, riding on the climate change wave. Dengue fever has always been around, however. I had a bout of it myself some 20 years ago, and it’s no joke. But now it is hotter, and rains, when they come, are heavier. This week, in Little London, Westmoreland there has been considerable flooding and water is standing in communities, breeding mosquitoes. The dangers are real, and we must take care and reduce all the places where these creatures breed.
We are now aware that we have a new species of mosquito in Jamaica: Health officials have reported that aedes albopictus, also called the Asian Tiger mosquito, is here. Like our now-familiar friend aedes aegypti, it transmits dengue fever, chikungunya, and Zika, as well as yellow fever. The albopictus is stripey all over. The aegypti has stripey legs. Take a look at these photos.
However, the Ministry of Health has quickly moved to quash rumours circulating on social media that yellow fever is in fact in Jamaica (see their press release below).
Here’s a little background: The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that 27 African countries and 13 countries in the Latin America/Caribbean region are at the highest risk for yellow fever (a fact sheet on the disease is here). If you travel to those countries, you need to take a certificate showing that you have been vaccinated against the disease. Countries “of risk” for yellow fever in the Western Hemisphere are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, and Venezuela.
The WHO/Pan American Health Organization reports that “between January 2016 and 13 March 2018, seven countries and territories of the Region of the Americas reported confirmed cases of yellow fever: the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Peru, and Suriname.” Since February 16, 2018, it notes, new cases have been reported in Brazil and Peru.
So…let’s get this straight: There are no cases of yellow fever in Jamaica. However, we must be vigilant at all times with mosquitoes, and make sure they are not around our house and yard, in particular.
KINGSTON, Jamaica. 16 May 2018 – The Ministry of Health wishes to advise the public that there are no cases of yellow fever in Jamaica.
Yellow Fever is a Class 1 notifiable disease, which means it is to be reported to the Ministry of Health within 24 hours on suspicion by a healthcare professional. The Ministry has not received any such report.
To prevent the importation of the yellow fever virus into Jamaica where the disease does not occur, but where the mosquito vector and human hosts are present, vaccination against yellow fever is required for Jamaicans traveling overseas to destinations that are reported by the World Health Organisation as countries at risk for yellow fever transmission. The Ministry of Health also undertakes surveillance at the ports of entry in respect of persons arriving from these destinations.
Yellow fever vaccines are available and administered at the Comprehensive Health Centre in Kingston and at the Montego Bay Type 5 Health Centre in St. James. The vaccine should be administered at least 10 days prior to travel.
Yellow fever is an acute illness caused by the yellow fever virus, which is found in the tropics of South America and Africa. The virus is transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes, such as the Aedes, the same vector that transmits the chikungunya, dengue and zika viruses.
The Ministry of Health is reiterating the importance of personal protection against mosquito bites and continues to heighten its mosquito control activities island-wide during this week’s observance of Mosquito Awareness Week.
Individuals may call the Ministry of Health (PR and Communications Unit at (876) 633-8174 or 633-8502) or the nearest health centre for more information. Persons may also visit our website at moh.gov.jm,and like and follow us on www.facebook.com/themohgovjm; https://twitter.com/themohgovjm; and https://instagram.com/themohgovjm