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(SNO) — Health officials in Saint Lucia have issued an alert in light of reported deaths due to the mosquito-borne disease, dengue, in the neighboring French island of Martinique.
They fear that since a big portion of the population has not been exposed to the disease before and they have not developed antibodies to combat it, there is a possibility of a large outbreak.
“We are asking persons to be on guard, be on the alert,” Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Merlene Frederick-James, said. “At this point in time we are not seeing an increase in dengue cases, but as we said other countries in the region are noticing an increase, countries that are near to us, the French territories are noticing an increase hence we need to be on the alert.”
She said a large number of the Saint Lucian population is less than 10 years old and they have not been exposed to the disease, especially the type-3 variation.
“And this is definitely a concern when persons who have not been exposed,” she explained. “When a disease enters a country where persons have not been previously exposed, it means that these persons haven’t developed antibodies and it is quite possible that you may have a larger outbreak as a result of that because you have more persons who are susceptible to the condition.”
Cases of dengue normally spike during the rainy season, and Dr. Frederick-James stated that although it has been relatively dry on the island, there has been some showers.
“So we need to be on guard,” she said. “Even if we are in a relatively dry period, we are having some showers and we know that once there are showers, and once there is water, which is uncovered in and around the home, the mosquitoes can breed.”
Saint Lucians are being warned that avoiding mosquito bites and keeping the insect under control are the best ways to prevent dengue.
“We know about wearing long sleeve clothing, using the insect repellent in our house, using the mosquito screens that we should have in our homes, and all of the other things that we need to do to prevent ourselves from being bitten by mosquitoes, whilst at the same time preventing the breeding of mosquitoes,” Dr. Frederick-James stated.
She advised everyone to remove all mosquito-breeding sites, cover stored water, clean and empty water drums, and make sure they are properly covered, get rid of old tires and anything that can trap water.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) have already warned of the possibility of a dengue outbreak in the region.