Crime in Westmoreland impacting dengue treatment — official

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ALDAYR, Westmoreland — Vector Control Ccoordinator for Westmoreland, Ryan Morris, has cited crime in some communities in the parish as the main factor negatively impacting the work of vector control employees here.

The disclosure comes at a time when Westmoreland has seen a three-fold increase in the number of suspected, presumed or confirmed dengue cases.

“Violence, transportation constrains and demotivation due to minimal wage — those are just a few. However, violence is what prevents a more substantial vector control effort in some of these communities. Because, if we are current with the news, we will recognise that section of Savanna-la-Mar and Grange Hill have been targeted by heavy violence. So, as such, the team is afraid to go into such communities,” said Morris, during a site visit of the Aldayr community in Westmoreland with Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton on Friday.

Morris, who thanked his team for their commitment, also used the opportunity to beseech community members to desist from stoning his workers, but instead, “support them, and if possible, give advice to them”.

The community of Aldayr is one of several in the parish that have been identified as areas with a high level of Aedes aegypti mosquito presence.

Among the others are Savanna-la-Mar and its environs, Little London, Negril, and Grange Hill.

In 2017 the parish of Westmoreland recorded 36 cases of suspected, presumed or confirmed cases of dengue, but the number jumped to some 117 suspected cases last year, four of which have since been confirmed.

As a result, Dr Tufton said the health department will ramp up it’s its vector control activities over the next few weeks.

This will include a public education campaign, as well as identifying and destroying mosquito breeding sites. “Again, we appeal to citizens to play their part as we seek to contain and overcome this season of dengue,” Dr Tufton emphasised.

Earlier in the day, the minister met with the Westmoreland public health team, including workers employed to undertake vector control, medical officer of health for the parish, Dr Marcia Graham; chairman of the Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital, Eric Clarke, and chief executive officer of the Western Regional Health Authority, Errol Greene; Chief Public Health Inspector for the parish Steve Morris, and councillors from the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation.

And coming out of the meeting, it was disclosed that the vector control team, which consists of nine permanent staff members and 33 temporary workers, had only one vehicle at its disposal to undertake duties across the parish. As a result, a decision was taken to rent two vehicles, while approximately 20-25 additional temporary staff is to be added within the next week.

And in pointing to the impact violence is having on vector control staff in the parish, Dr Tufton noted that efforts will be made to employ the temporary workers from crime affected communities.

“There are some vulnerable communities that there is a little fear, because of the violence and the risk of persons not accepting them (vector control workers), and what I have said to them, recruit persons from those areas who are familiar with those communities,” said Dr Tufton.

Morris, who also thanked the minister for visiting the parish and for promising additional transportation and staffing support, said “this will assist in bringing back Westmoreland to normalcy.”

The chief public health inspector for Westmoreland noted that it is not surprising that the parish had last year seen a three-fold increase in the number of suspected, presumed or confirmed dengue cases, as it has been receiving a lot of rain.

Morris also pointed out that in the past, “it was almost impossible to cover the parish in any significant way,” with the nine permanent staff members.

He noted that the health department has seen “a drastic improvement with the additional 33 persons,” and is hoping to see better results with the promised 20-25 temporary workers.

The promised temporary workers are to be employed under the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) Programme as Vector Support Aides.

Meanwhile, Dr Tufton has also argued that the lack of piped water in some communities had contributed to difficulties faced by vector control workers in controlling mosquito breeding sites.

“A big part of the challenges that we face in controlling these mosquitoes breeding sites is the lack of piped water in many of these communities. So, persons have to use containers and often times these containers are not covered and they become a fertile breeding site for the Aedes aegypti mosquito,” he argued.

The Aedes aegypti or yellow fever mosquito is responsible for spreading dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika fever, yellow fever viruses, and other diseases.

Following the Westmoreland visit by Dr Tufton on Friday, the minister also undertook a similar activity in the neighbouring parish of St Elizabeth, as part of his planned visit to each parish over the next few days, particularly those that are affected by dengue, to see what additional assistance is needed, and can be provided.

Last Thursday, the minister and other health officials disclosed that the island is currently experiencing an outbreak of dengue fever.



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