Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 23 October, 2020. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Caribbean region is presently seeing an upsurge in the number of reported Dengue cases. This is of extreme concern, as some countries have declared outbreaks with reports of severe Dengue cases and Dengue related deaths,” stated CARPHA Executive Director, Dr Joy St. John.
In May of this year, CARPHA drew the Region’s attention to potential outbreaks of Dengue as the rainy season approached. Increased rainfall leads to a proliferation of mosquito breeding sites, and an increase in mosquito vector populations. The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika viruses, is found throughout the Caribbean and is responsible for periodic outbreaks of disease.
“In 2020, the Region’s health systems have been focused on the COVID-19 response. However, current Dengue outbreaks have placed an additional burden on health systems, further taxing already limited resources.” Dr. St. John added. “There is a strong and urgent need to bring the current Dengue situation under control.”
Recognising the heavy impact of mosquito borne diseases on the health and well-being of Caribbean people, the European Union has been supporting CARPHA on regional disease prevention and control efforts. A project grant of €5M has been awarded with the overall objective of reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with Zika and other mosquito borne diseases. Building on ongoing efforts, the next four years will focus on strengthening CARPHA Member State disease surveillance systems and vector control operations. Additional attention will be paid to increasing community engagement across the Region, through public health education campaigns.
CARPHA’s 2020 Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week slogan states, “In times of COVID - Let's Unite to Fight the Bite!” This call to arms speaks not only to increased efforts from national health authorities, but also individuals and communities. The best way to "fight the bite" around homes and communities, is to ensure surroundings are clean and free of materials or containers that can accumulate water. This means frequently checking typical breeding sites such as plant pot bases, vases, buckets and used vehicles tyres, which are often overlooked. Water storage drums and tanks must be properly covered and inspected periodically to ensure that there is no breeding. Screens on doors and windows also reduce the entry of mosquitos into homes.
Personal preventative measures to minimize mosquito bites are also extremely important. Vulnerable groups such as infants, young children, older adults and women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant must exercise extra caution. Wearing long sleeved clothing, using insect repellents and insecticide treated bed nets are strongly recommended.
Mission Mosquito, an innovative information toolkit developed by CARPHA includes animated videos, posters and answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs). The toolkit is specially packaged to meet the needs of a diverse audience, which include public health professionals and clinicians, pregnant women, and children. The toolkit is available here http://missionmosquito.carpha.org/
The 11th EDF Zika and other mosquito borne diseases (ZOMBDI) project will be officially launched on October 28, 2020 with wide attendance from health personnel in CARPHA Member States, as well as regional and international development partners and stakeholders. For more information about the project, please visit: https://www.carpha.org/What-We-Do/Projects/11th-EDF-Zika.