BRIDGETOWON, Barbados - Health officials here are advising the public to implement precautionary measures to avoid contracting dengue fever, as they record an increase in cases.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness said that while there have been no deaths so far attributed to the mosquito-borne illness, it warns that the public should wear repellent and protective clothing; eliminate breeding sites by keeping surroundings clean; and use protective window and door screens as well as mosquito nets in the home.
They are also encouraging people to know the signs and symptoms of severe dengue as the country is one of the Caribbean islands showing signs of an increase in the number of suspected
The country along with other Caribbean islands is currently experiencing an outbreak, with daily increases in the number of suspected cases.
Dengue fever is caused by any one of four dengue virus (DENV) serotypes or strains. Each DENV strain could produce mild to severe illness. According to research, persons with healthy immune systems can only get each strain once.
Senior Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Leslie Rollock, who is responsible for infectious diseases, environmental matters and surveillance, said dengue infection, regardless of the type, is indistinguishable.
According to her, it may be asymptomatic, which means the person has no symptoms. But if it is symptomatic, most people would experience in the initial phase high fever, headache, pain, especially behind the eyes and on movement of the eyes; joint pains; skin rash, either all over the body or just over the joints; and upset stomach, which could lead to vomiting or diarrhoea. Symptoms usually last two to seven days.
She emphasised early detection of persons with severe symptoms, and access to proper supportive medical care could save lives, as severe dengue may lead to dehydration and excessive bleeding.
“When the fever starts to go down [in the initial phase], then the person feels worse. They get abdominal pain; if they had vomiting, it gets worse, and they may notice that their gums are bleeding. Their appetite may not return and they may get evidence that fluid is collecting in areas of the body; those are signs to go to your doctor and for your doctor to take note of, for admission because the warning signs may predict severe disease,” she explained.
The Senior Medical Officer of Health added that while anyone could get severe dengue, children and young persons were usually most affected during an outbreak.