HEALTH authorities Thursday appealed to Jamaicans not to panic as the country’s dengue fever cases swelled to 870.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie said this is the highest number of confirmed cases in comparison to previous outbreaks in 2019 (179) and 2016 (190 cases).
“…By far the number of confirmed cases at 870 is a lot more than we had in the previous years,” she told at a press conference held at the ministry’s New Kingston office on Thursday, but appealed to Jamaicans not to panic.
She said the confirmation of this number of dengue cases is due to the health ministry’s increased capacity to test at the National Public Health Lab.
“In 2019 we had to depend quite a bit on results coming in from the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad, and there was a long delay in getting results. Now we are getting results within 48 hours and…higher numbers of test results,” she said.
The CMO said the 870 cases are among the 3,147 suspected, presumed, and confirmed dengue cases recorded by the health ministry’s National Surveillance Unit as of November 6, 2023.
She said the number of confirmed dengue-related deaths have moved to two. This is among the nine deaths recorded, with seven classified as suspected. No deaths have, however, been recorded in the past two weeks.
Additionally, within the last week, on average 72 people have required hospitalisation for dengue symptoms.
Bisasor McKenzie said that of the 870 confirmed cases, 863 are dengue serotype 2, the most dominant strain in the island.
“Even though we are seeing October being less than September presently…as we get in more notifications that may change. So we may see the peak remaining in September, but it may change as the numbers come in, and October numbers may rise,” she said. The CMO further noted that all parishes continue to observe an increase in dengue cases compared to 2022 when Kingston and St Andrew and St Catherine had the highest number of cases as they are the most dense parishes and, therefore, more highly populated resulting in more cases.
“However, in terms of rate per 100,000 population, St Thomas, followed by Portland, is where you’re seeing higher numbers,” she said.
In the meantime, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Chistopher Tufton said the outbreak is expected to run its course until the end of 2023 into the new year.
“We do anticipate, based on the epidemiological assessment, that we will continue to see the presence of the virus and perhaps on the rise going into the end of this year and then dissipate over time in the first quarter of next year,” he said.