As the Government intensifies the drive to reduce the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, is calling on Jamaicans to desist from attacking vector-control workers who carry out fogging exercises.
“We appeal to the public again, stoning the vector workers doesn’t help your cause, doesn’t help the community and, indeed, it’s illegal and persons can be prosecuted for that,” the minister said.
Dr Tufton, who was speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House on Wednesday (Jan. 15), explained that fogging crews are crucial to the ministry’s drive to curb the infestation of mosquitoes, particularly the Aedes aegypti species, which is the vector responsible for the outbreak of dengue fever.
“These workers should have identification, they should be uniformed and, therefore, there should be no doubt as to why they are there. We can understand questions being asked if there are doubts, but they are supposed to be attired with identification to avoid those questions,” he said.
In the meantime, the minister assured that the chemical used in the fogging process is “certified and approved for such use and is safe to operate or be applied around an environment where we have residents”.
He encouraged persons who have respiratory ailments to avoid the area where fogging is taking place for a period immediately after the fogging
“But having said that, we are administering a procedure which is not going to cause any harm to humans and, indeed, a procedure that will protect the communities by addressing the breeding of these mosquitoes or destroying the mature mosquitoes once they are out in the environment,” the health minister argued.
Dr. Tufton pointed out that the ministry has expanded the fogging programme in high-risk communities across the island.
“We have engaged private contractors where necessary to do that and we will roll out the 35 vehicles to provide additional support for fogging,” he said.
He noted that $234 million has been spent to acquire the 35 new vehicles, as well as vehicle-mounted fogging machines, adding that these will be deployed shortly.
A multisectoral approach is being taken to stem the rising number of mosquito-related illnesses, which is in keeping with the Government’s billion-dollar Enhanced Vector Control Programme to deal with the current dengue outbreak
Up to January 13, 2020, some 9,356 suspected, presumed or confirmed dengue cases were recorded across the health sector for 2018 to 2019.
“One thousand and sixty-six in 2018, and 8,290 in 2019, which clearly suggest that last year was an extremely active year in terms of the dengue virus. The number of dengue-related deaths total 81 – 17 in 2018 and 64 in 2019,” he said.
The minister noted that more females have been affected by the virus when compared with their male counterparts, and within the general population, children five to 14 years old have been most affected, followed by infants aged one to four years old.
Since the start of 2019, some 1,692 persons have been hospitalised on suspicion of being affected by dengue.