The Saint Lucia Ministry of Health and Wellness has continued to provide updates over the past few weeks to the public on the significant increases in trends of dengue viral infection. These increasing trends now constitute an outbreak. This means the numbers currently being reported exceed the numbers expected, and as such this warrants an immediate and targeted response.
As of the week of Aug 9 to 15, there have been 168 confirmed cases of dengue infection. The hospitalization rate is at 46 percent while the case fatality rate remains at zero. Thirty-eight percent of reported cases were between the ages of 5 to 13 years. Even more concerning is the fact that both serotypes two and three of dengue are in circulation in Saint Lucia. While most of the reported cases are concentrated in the northern, central and eastern regions of the island, some cases have also been reported in the south and west of the island to a lesser extent.
The public health impact of managing a dengue outbreak combined with adjusting to the new normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic will place a strain on the already stretched healthcare services. The direct economic cost of treatment, hospitalization and prevention, as well as the indirect costs such as loss of productivity related to absences, disability or death and the effects on tourism is of concern to an already fragile economy. The Ministry of Health and Wellness therefore solicits the usual cooperation of the public in dealing with this emerging public health threat.
Dengue fever is one of the most prevalent arboviral infections worldwide. It is mosquito-borne, which means that it is transmitted by a mosquito—usually the female Aedes egypti and to a lesser extent the Aedes albopictus. These are the same mosquitoes that are responsible for transmitting chikungunya, yellow fever and zika. The mosquito lives in urban habitats and breeds mostly in manmade containers. It is a daytime feeder, with its peak biting periods in the early mornings, and on evenings before sunset.
Dengue is widespread throughout the tropics with local variations of risk influenced by rainfall, temperature, humidity and unplanned rapid urbanization. Dengue is also endemic to Saint Lucia which means that there is continued local transmission throughout the year.
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