As such, officials are urging communities to destroy possible breeding sites in order to lessen the chances of being bitten by an infected host.
“It should be noted that we are in the rainy season and as such, dengue fever is also on the rise. The number of dengue fever cases increases each year in a seasonal pattern, coinciding with the onset of the rainy season. Although not at epidemic proportions, cases will increase due to the increased availability of water and possible breeding sites,” the health ministry stated.
The ministry added that dengue fever is endemic in St. Lucia, meaning that cases are diagnosed year round, and given that both chikungunya and dengue fever are transmitted by the same vector, it is possible that persons may be infected with both diseases concurrently.
“This possibility should be kept in mind, especially in children, adolescents and young persons, who develop signs of febrile illness,” the ministry stated. “Parents should ensure that children are brought in for review at a health centre or medical facility, should any sign of dengue or chikungunya fever develop.”
The Ministry has advised communities to help decrease mosquito-borne diseases by eliminating breeding sites, covering water receptacles properly, wearing long sleeved clothing, and using insect repellants to prevent mosquito bites. Meanwhile, the Environmental Health Department will continue fogging operations especially in affected communities, it said.
Symptoms of the both dengue and chikungunya include fever, headache, body aches and pains; but joint pain and joint swelling is more characteristic of chikungunya. Persons can only get infected with chikungunya once. It is believed that one develops lifelong immunity after an infection. This situation differs though with dengue. There are four to five known dengue fever serotypes so a person may get infected with dengue on more than one occasion.
Persons are reminded that it may be difficult to distinguish between the two diseases and that co-infection is possible. Self treatment with medications other than paracetamol should be avoided as the use of more potent painkillers in someone who has dengue can lead to complications such as bleeding.
Children, adolescents, pregnant women and elderly persons, as well as persons suffering from other chronic diseases should seek care early from an approved practitioner, rather than self treating at home.