Public Health workers fighting to stave off another Dengue outbreak
Members of the Vector Control Unit visiting a house in Vermont
May 12, 2023
Public Health workers fighting to stave off another Dengue outbreak

The Insect Vector Control Unit has and continues to remain on its toes when it comes to eliminating mosquito breeding in hopes of not having a repeat of the Dengue fever outbreak which occurred in 2020.

Back in 2020, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) experienced a severe outbreak of dengue fever forcing the government to implement a vector control programme valued at over EC$1.5 million which included fogging, cleaning up of rivers and streams as well as public education.

Over the last week, members of the Unit have been engaging the public as part of the activities for Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week which is being held locally under the theme ‘Small Bite, Big Threat: Make Mosquito Breeding Hard, Tek Back Yuh Yard’.

The Unit made two whistle stops on Thursday, May 11, in Vermont and Barrouallie to meet with and educate community members about eliminating mosquito breeding sites around their homes.

Senior Environmental Health Officer with responsibility for the Vector Control Unit, Dr. Todd Lewis spoke with SEARCHLIGHT on the sidelines of the whistle stop where he reminded Vincentians that fighting mosquito-borne illnesses is a “shared responsibility”.

Dr. Lewis said following the 2020 outbreak, the Unit has been upsized to 80 members, who are responsible for community checks and house inspections across the various districts of the state.

“On a daily basis … we’d set out to work within the communities and that includes basically looking at mosquito breeding sites and how we can eliminate these sites. We give sensitization to the homeowners and how they can participate in eliminating and reducing these breeding sites.

He also said new strategies, such as the geographical information system, has been employed to inform the team about trends occurring in villages across the country.

“We can now plug that into the tool and we analyse that data. We have a better understanding of the level of the villages, what those villages look like in terms of the indices- meaning the risk of disease transmission in these particular areas and the different strategies that we put in place in addressing these situations. Before when we had things analogue, we could have only looked at a paper map in front of us and try to really gauge what is happening. Now we have that advantage where we can pull out St. Vincent into villages and see exactly what is happening in that village and how we can address that village.”

Dr. Lewis stressed that the strategies to manage mosquito-borne illness such as Dengue fever need to be ongoing rather than reactive considering that any outbreak can have a tremendous burden on the island’s health care system.

“… We had a huge situation where a lot of persons were infected very quickly; now by the measures that were put in place by the Central Government with the mosquito eradication project, we were able to bring that number down from 1,600 [cases] in the beginning of January 2020 to less than 100 at the end of January, 2021.

He added that “Apart from overloading the healthcare systems in different hospitals and the clinics, that also had an economical burden on St Vincent and the Grenadines because the more persons who are ill, the less productive we become in the workforce. We now have to take into consideration persons that would need sick leave “.