Feb 22, 2009 News
– Minister Ramsammy
— Private health facilities urged to report suspected cases
Guyana, like the region of Latin America and the Caribbean, is currently under a dengue threat, thus the response of the local health Ministry cannot be classified as business as usual.
This disclosure was made by Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy at a press conference Friday where he highlighted that his Ministry has engaged urgent action to avert a possible dengue crisis.
“We believe that even though the whole region was under serious threat for a couple of years now and even though at the beginning of last year Guyana was not under the same threat, as of right now Guyana is under a serious threat so we cannot act as if it is business as usual.”
According to the Minister, although the situation is not out-of-control, his Ministry is preparing for a worse-case-scenario in order to be able to combat any dengue threat successfully.
And while there is no indication at the moment that the problem will escalate, Minister Ramsammy pointed out that the Guyanese public ought to know that the dengue threat is a serious one thus they, like the Ministry and the health sector as a whole, must take the relevant actions.
For this reason, he said that advisories have been issued for regions at higher risk including Georgetown, Lethem and the East Coast of Demerara. Additionally, he said that an alert has been issued for the rest of the country.
“Children should be sleeping under bed nets and I would encourage families to keep a stock of repellent in their homes. We should ensure that our homes are kept clean to avoid harbouring the mosquitoes (aedes aegypti) which transmit the disease.”
These mosquitoes are said to breathe in stagnant water in open tanks, plant pots, soda cans and other areas. As such the Minister is urging that citizens keep their homes and surroundings clean to prevent the increase of the disease and hence the transmission of dengue.
According to the Minister, he is hoping for full cooperation in addressing the dengue situation, adding that “I would prefer that we don’t deal with dengue. That is why we are taking action now. I don’t want to wait for a dengue crisis when we can avert it now,” the Minister articulated.
He explained that unlike malaria, dengue fever is a viral infection for which there is no specific treatment to eradicate it. He noted that the environmental disease brings with it symptoms including fever, joint pains and also serves to complicate other illnesses which could become worse, even causing an infected person to die.
And though the Ministry is poised to deal with the dengue situation, Minister Ramsammy pointed out that the Ministry’s effort is challenged by the fact that some private medical facilities have not been reporting suspected cases of dengue.
“Dengue is a reportable disease but many private sector facilities in the past have not reported these cases. I want to encourage the private sector that they need to report every suspected dengue case to us. It is true that not every case that people suspect is a real case but unless people report those cases we will not be able to do our follow-up work.”
According to the Minister, once it is suspected that a patient is infected with dengue, health workers of the Ministry are tasked with visiting that patient’s family members. However, unless such cases are reported, the Minister explained, the Ministry is unable to follow cases.
“If we are informed, we can determine whether cases are coming from a South Georgetown location and we can move immediately and take certain environmental action,” he emphasized
In this regard, he said that actions of private health care providers have being posing a major difficulty, even as he highlighted the fact that one such facility has failed to report a possible haemorrhagic death which the Ministry is currently investigating.
“The report that we got did not come formally from the hospital and this has created some difficulties because the person was already buried by the time we were able to access this case.”
And while the death may have been dengue-related, the Minister asserted that the Ministry will be unable to make such a pronouncement since the doctors at the private institution had requested that a post mortem be conducted before burial.
“We know that in recent weeks this person did not travel outside of the Georgetown area and that makes it possible that this person who died of dengue contracted it right here. It is, however, possible that the person arrived sometime ago with a mild case of dengue. If you have a mild case it could be in your body for many months and if you get infected with a non- haemorrhagic case the combination can lead to haemorrhagic dengue…but because a PM was not done it is not possible for us to know whether it was real or not.”
In the meantime, the Minister noted that an investigation into the death will continue even as he reiterated that it is of utmost importance that private facilities report all suspected cases.
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