The Minister of Health and Wellness the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville led a team of health officials and technical experts during a National Press Conference on the Dengue outbreak in the country.
And, the ministry also confirmed the death of a nine-year-old boy from the mosquito borne illness, and updated on ongoing methods to mitigate the spread of the disease.
The press conference was held at the Ministry of Health and Wellness on Tuesday, September 12, 2023– the second since the outbreak.
Also present were: The Hon. Vaughn Miller, Minister of The Environment and Natural Resources; the Hon. Zane Lightbourne, Minister of State, Ministry of The Environment and Natural Resources; Dr. Felicia Balfour-Greenslade, Head of the National Communicable Disease Surveillance Unit; Dr. Aubynette Rolle, Managing Director, Public Hospitals Authority; Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Pearl McMillan; Dr. Philip Swann, Registrar; and representatives of the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS).
At the time of the press conference, 88 cases of Dengue Fever were confirmed – the majority in New Providence, 80; 6 in Grand Bahama; 1 in The Berry Islands, and 1 in Exuma. The latter two had a history of travel from New Providence.
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. Symptoms typically begin three to fourteen days after infection. And, these may include a high fever, headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pains, and a skin itching and rash.
Dengue is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Hence, the DEHS is asking the public to ensure no water receptacles such as bin covers; tyres are around their properties, which can turn into breeding ground for the vector. Moreover, the DEHS has mounted a “Fight The Bite” flash clean-up campaign as a form of mitigation.
Another measure being used by the DEHS is fogging in a half-mile perimeter of all suspected and confirmed areas. All properties within a half mile radius of every suspected or confirmed cases has been visited and physically examined for the presence of mosquito larva, and for water bearing containers. Where they exist, they have been discarded, overturned or treated.
The National Reference Lab is carrying out all testing for Dengue.
Dr. Darville also informed that all hospitals and clinics are on “high alert” as “we begin to up our game in our fight against Dengue.”
He added, “Our teams have been educated and trained to look for cases that are potentially dengue cases, activate immediately, go into the necessary medical history and communicate directly with our surveillance unit who works very closely with the Department of Environmental Health.
“So, it’s a system that incorporates many healthcare professionals at the Family Island clinics at our hospitals as well as in the community to alert through education.”
Dr. Darville confirmed that the ministry is not considering bringing in dengue vaccines because Dengue Fever is not an endemic disease in The Bahamas.
“We reached out to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to give us advice on the possibility of vaccines and based on what’s being discussed, we believe not being an endemic area sort of excludes The Bahamas from a national vaccination programme for Dengue,” he explained.
The country has learned “a lot” from the last two Dengue outbreaks in 2011 and 2014, Dr. Darville said.
Most people diagnosed with dengue fever have type three of the virus — a form of the disease that could cause severe illness if they previously had the first two serotypes of the virus.
Regarding the death of the nine-year-old boy, Dr McMillan said he presented with a viral type illness “but did not continue with the care that was provided and unfortunately, he succumbed to the illness. We later got the results back and we know that it was dengue.”
State Minister for Environment Lightbourne reported that teams will be deployed to the Family Islands this week to start fogging exercises as part of its mosquito control programme.
By LINDSAY THOMPSON/Bahamas Information Services