Double-whammy: CARPHA warns of mosquito-borne illnesses amid COVID-19

Close up a female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes feeding on human blood. The species of mosquito is a prolific carrier of vector-borne diseases such as Chikungunya, Dengue fever, Rift Valley fever, Yellow fever, and Zika. (Photo: Discover Magazine)

Even in the face of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, wreaking havoc across the region, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is urging countries and citizens to remain vigilant of mosquito-borne diseases.

In a statement on Monday (May 11), CARPHA Executive Director Dr Joy St John said that while nations focus on tackling the COVID-19 outbreak, illnesses spread by mosquitoes are still real threats to public health.

“In the midst of this pandemic we must be mindful that other public health threats still exist. Mosquito-borne diseases, such as Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika, have placed an additional burden on our region’s health care systems, and negatively impact social and economic development. As individuals and communities, we each have a role to play in preventing an upsurge of mosquito-borne diseases,” stated St. John, in observance of Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week 2020.

Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Dr. Joy St. John. (Photo: CARICOM.org)

For her part, CARPHA’s Head of Vector Borne Diseases, Dr. Laura-Lee Boodram noted that in 2019 several Caribbean countries experience outbreaks of dengue, with some states reporting an increase in the number of severe and hospitalised cases.

Boodram continued that while the disease has been endemic to the region, “Dengue outbreaks tend to occur in cycles every few years due to a complex interplay between population, ecological and climatic factors.”

“While we haven’t seen a resurgence of Chikungunya or Zika within Member States in the last few years, countries in South and Central America did report outbreaks of Chikungunya in 2019 and early 2020, therefore, the Caribbean must remain vigilant,” Boodram added.

Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week (CMAW) was declared in November 2014 at the 17th Special Meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government on Public Health Threats.

It is an important reminder to the general public to take action to reduce the risk of diseases spread by mosquitoes.

For CMAW 2020, CARPHA’s slogan, “In times of COVID – Let’s Unite to Fight the Bite!”, places emphasis on taking preventative measures and remaining healthy during this time. 

“As the rainy season starts, it is expected that greater rainfall will lead to a proliferation of mosquito breeding sites, build vector populations and increase the risk of transmission of diseases, such as Dengue. To counter this increase in mosquitoes and potential disease transmission, greater effort should be placed on mosquito awareness in communities and vector control activities should be intensified,” the regional health authority indicated.