St Lucia recorded a marked increase in the number of confirmed cases of dengue fever following Hurricane Tomas and during 2011 recorded outbreak levels of the disease. Dengue fever is transmitted by the bite of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. This is mainly a day biting mosquito which prefers breeding in and around dwelling places.
Recognizing the potential risks of infection, the Ministry of Health has partnered with the Ministry of Education in increasing the awareness of school staff and students along with parents and guardians in an effort to eliminate the potential breeding sites for mosquitoes within the school compound. This is based on a comprehensive approach which entails ensuring that school compounds are free of refuse and breeding sites, as well as securely sealing water tanks to prevent mosquitoes from accessing and breeding in water stored on the school compound. In some cases, remedial works may be needed on the school’s physical infrastructure, as would obtain where faulty guttering is present, as this may be a breeding site for the Aedes aeqypti mosquito. Schools with have ponds are encouraged to ensure that those ponds are stocked with fish (e.g. guppies, Atkinson/ tilapia) which would feed on any mosquito larvae which may be present the pond water, thereby preventing the breeding of mosquito populations.
Prior to the re-opening of school, the MOH through the Environmental Health department commenced vector assessments of school compounds. As a result, fogging operations have been done at a number of schools nationally. This activity will continue after school hours, where warranted. Additionally, the Ministry of Health will continue its partnering with the Ministry of Education through the implementation of a dengue sensitization programme targeted at students and staff. This forms part of the prevention strategy to eliminate the opportunity of breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes through the encouraging of positive behaviours.
The MOH thanks the general public for its continued support and reminds all that together, we can bring a halt o this current dengue fever epidemic.