Ministry of Health and Wellness Update on Dengue Fever Outbreak (Delivered to Parliament, Tuesday, November 12)

The ongoing outbreak of dengue fever continues to create anxiety and concern among the general public, especially in relation to young children and other vulnerable Jamaicans. 

But panicking won’t help. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their health and the health of others. And it’s amazing how irresponsible some citizens are – almost deliberately so. In a radio interview, Minister of Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton gave the example of a upper middle-class home with a swimming pool that was a major breeding site. When vector control officers visited, the owners threatened to call their lawyer!

In fact, though, people can be ticketed (there is a fine of up to J$1 million) and cited under the Public Health Act for being a nuisance to others. Minister Tufton said there have been some 4,000 cases in the past year where people have been ticketed. If persuasion – gentle or strong – is not working, legal measures may be increasingly resorted to.

We all know the most likely places where mosquitoes breed by now. Don’t we? There is a detailed page on the Ministry’s website that will inform you. There is a mosquito prevention checklist here

Meanwhile, there is a dire shortage of blood. There are ten collection centers across the island. Do donate, if you can! And remember too, if you are feeling symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

Minister Tufton gave this update today to parliamentary colleagues:

I know – we hate these photos of aedes aegypti mosquitoes about to bite, but in case you have forgotten what it looks like…

Parliamentary Statement by Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, MP

Re: Billion-Dollar Spend for Enhanced Intervention – Dengue Response

Gordon House, Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I rise to give an update to this honourable house and the nation on the current and ongoing challenge of the Dengue Outbreak that the country faces.

 This honourable house will recall, Mr. Speaker, that the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) has declared a pandemic in the Latin America and Caribbean Region, with more than 2 Million cases and some 800 deaths in the first seven months of this year.

In addition to dengue, this period of the year, Mr. Speaker, represents the peak season for upper respiratory tract infections, asthma and gastroenteritis, coupled with higher incidences of trauma from motor vehicle accidents and violence.

Having declared an outbreak, Mr. Speaker, on January 3, 2019, the Ministry of Health & Wellness has ramped up its Enhanced Vector Control Programme.

Jamaica’s Health and Wellness Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, examines a container during a tour in Westmoreland, back in early January, 2019, in search of mosquito breeding sites. Photo: JIS

Programme to Date

To date, Mr. Speaker, the country has spent an estimated J$581 Million Dollars on the response, including, Mr. Speaker:

  • Increasing temporary Vector Control Workers to 1,000;
  • Providing J$60M to the National Solid Waste Management Authority for Solid Waste Removal;
  • Expanding the Fogging Programme in high-risk communities;
  • Allocating approximately J$320M to Municipal Corporations and MPs for Vector Control activities in Communities;
  • And rolling out a Public Education Campaign in all forms of media.

Additionally, Mr. Speaker, the Ministry has:

  • Increased Clinic Hours in some health centres from 3pm to 8:00 pm;
  • Provided Free Treatment for Children under 12 years old at the University Hospital of the West Indies; and
  • Activated Emergency Operation Centres at the Ministry and in all Parishes.

Mr. Speaker, we have also:

  • Reviewed and updated all Clinical Protocols for Dengue and distributed them to Private and Public Doctors; and
  • Hosted Clinical Sessions with Private and Public Doctors for treatment of Dengue cases.

At the same time, Mr. Speaker, we have also received technical support from PAHO, which has been reviewing our dengue response.

Dengue Cases to Date

As at November 7, 2019, Mr. Speaker, the National Surveillance Unit in the Ministry of Health & Wellness had in its electronic database a total of 12,794 notifications for dengue, received between January 1, 2018 and November 7, 2019 (2,235 in 2018 and 10,559 since 2019).

Of the 12,794 notifications for the period, Mr. Speaker, 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%) with dates of onset in 2019).

Mr. Speaker, the majority of the suspected/presumed/confirmed cases were female, with the burden of the number of cases greatest among the 25 to 59 year olds followed by the 5 to 14 year old age cohort. However, Mr. Speaker, the highest rate of dengue cases was among the 5 to 14 year olds, followed by children 1 to 4 years old.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a correction to the report that was made in Parliament regarding the statistics around the number of deaths. Deaths are notified as they occur, before there is full analysis of the cases and before post mortems and results are available.

All the notified cases are investigated and outstanding results are collected and analysed. Based on this, the final classification is made. Not all notified deaths end up being classified as dengue-related deaths.

As such, Mr. Speaker, as at November 7, there were 61 suspected/confirmed deaths, of which 17 were in 2018 and 44 in 2019.

Mr. Speaker, the age group with the largest number of suspected and confirmed dengue-related deaths was the 5 to 14 years old cohort.

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.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, 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.

$1 Billion Additional Expenditure

Mr. Speaker, given the intensity of this dengue outbreak, I have sought and received Cabinet’s approval to enhance our intervention. This intervention will see a One Billion Dollar expenditure over the next 3 months.

Our enhanced intervention includes the establishment of a National Dengue Coordination Committee, as we seek to include a multi-sectoral/agency response.

There are so many odd places around the house that are possible mosquito breeding sites! (Graphic from the Ministry of Health and Wellness)

Mr. Speaker, the key Ministries, Agencies and Departments will be called into action, including:

  • The Ministry of Local Government and Community Development – to mobilise the Local Boards of Health, as part of the coordination at the parish level;
  • The Social Development Commission – to undertake Community activation sessions for high-risk communities to include community meetings and town hall sessions;
  • The National Solid Waste Management Authority – to expand the removal of solid waste, especially bulky waste from communities;
  • The Ministry of Education, Youth & Information – to mobilise schools to undertake dengue sensitisation sessions;
  • The Ministry of Industry Commerce Agriculture and Fisheries – to mobilise RADA Extension Officers to engage farmers on proper water storage techniques and for them to undertake breeding site eradication strategies; and
  • The National Works Agency – to undertake drain cleaning programmes and bushing activities to reduce mosquito breeding sites, especially in communities with high indices.

Mr. Speaker, this Step-Up Activity will also see:

  • Approval of the Emergency Procurement of 35 Vector Control Vehicles and mounted foggers;
  • The planning and execution of a National Mosquito Eradication Day in conjunction with the National Labour Day Secretariat in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport; and
  • Approval for the extension of the 1,000 temporary Vector Control Programme to at least 6 months after the outbreak has been declared at an end.

Mr. Speaker, again I make a special appeal to all Jamaicans to partner with the Government by taking action, including searching their surroundings for mosquito breeding sites in and around the home and to visit their doctor or health centre as necessary.

Thank you.




2 thoughts on “Ministry of Health and Wellness Update on Dengue Fever Outbreak (Delivered to Parliament, Tuesday, November 12)

    1. Oh no! It’s no joke. I also had it some 15 years or so ago and am so afraid of catching it again. It has been on the rampage this year across the Americas, with more than 60 deaths on our little island alone. It is due to climate change – higher temperatures!


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