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Keeping Dengue in Check

The Aedes egyptii mosquito spreads dengue fever.

With the rising incidence of dengue fever in the Americas, especially the Bahamas, Cayman's public health officials have issued a travel advisory as they closely monitor for local presence of the disease.

There has been no dengue cases reported in the Cayman Islands so far for 2011. However in 2008 and 2009 there were 2 imported cases each year and in 2010 there were a total of 7 cases (two imported and five with no travel history), indicating that from time-to-time some imported cases may cause sporadic localized cases to occur. However the Cayman Islands are still considered not endemic to dengue, as there is no sustained transmission of the disease.

"With the regional outbreak in mind, we are not complacent and medical personnel are on high alert to look for any local cases," Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar said.

Currently dengue outbreaks are reported in some countries in the region like Aruba, Bahamas, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago.

"Dengue fever is caused by a virus, but a mosquito biting a person with dengue fever can spread the virus to another person. Hence persons, who develop symptoms within two to three weeks of having returned from countries with dengue cases, are advised to consult their physician," Dr. Kumar explained.

The symptoms of dengue are high fever, severe headache, backache, joint pains, nausea and vomiting, eye pain, and rash.

The incubation period (the time that the infection takes to develop before it shows symptoms) is usually four to seven days; but can be up to three weeks.

There is no vaccine or specific medication to treat dengue infection, and people travelling to known dengue endemic countries should take preventative measures such as using a repellent (DEET etc), wearing protective clothing, using air conditioning indoors or only opening screened windows and doors, and staying indoors during early dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

Even as there are no local cases of dengue fever, the dengue carrier - the Aedes aegyptii mosquito - is present in the Cayman Islands, making transmission of the disease possible if a case occurs. "The only real protective measure is avoiding mosquito bites," Dr. Kumar said.

Upon report of a suspected dengue case the Public Health Department would immediately inform its partners in prevention and control the Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) and the Department of Environmental Health (DEH) of the suspected case, and they would take measures as if it was a case of dengue fever and enhance their mosquito control measures around the residence of the case.

For more information, call the Public Health Department on 244-2648 or 244-2621, or Faith Hospital on 948-2243.

For advice on mosquito control measures contact the MRCU on 949-2557 or DEH on 949-6696 in Grand Cayman or 948-2321 in Cayman Brac.


List of countries in our region who reported having dengue fever:

Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.

Source: Public Health Department

For further information contact: Cornelia Oliver