One hundred and fifteen persons have been diagnosed with dengue for the year but there is no outbreak of the infection, according to Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Shamdeo Persaud who said the Ministry of Health has been monitoring the situation closely.
Dr Persaud told Stabroek News that while the number of positive cases may appear high it should be taken against the background that the ministry has been testing many more persons than it did in the past.
According to Dr Persaud the figure of 115 is for the first five weeks of the year and the number was out of the 468 persons who were tested. For the same period last year 154 persons were tested and 43 were found to be positive. He was careful to stress that there is no “outbreak” of dengue fever and the cases were taken from both private and public institutions.
The CMO said that the ministry has stepped up its surveillance from mid last year since neighbouring countries such as Trinidad and Brazil have seen increases in the number of persons affected. In the case of Trinidad there have been some deaths from dengue.
There has been no death recorded here from the disease, Dr Persaud asserted, and of the positive cases 65 are from Region 4, 27 from Region 9 and of that number 14 were visiting Brazilians. Region 3 saw eight cases, Regions 5 and 6 had three cases while Regions 7, 8 and ten had no cases.
As for Region 2, Dr Persaud said, there was one case and that was a child who was hospitalised and had to be closely monitored by health officials. The child had no travel history and it means that someone with the disease had to travel to the area where the child lives. The CMO said they have been impressing on patients to inform health officials about their travels so that they can keep track of them.
The Berbice area that borders Suriname has been closely monitored as according to Dr Persaud, Suriname has seen some cases of the dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF), the deadly dengue fever. He said while no DHF has so far been recorded in Guyana the ministry wants to ensure that it remains that way.
There are four types of dengue virus and Dr Persaud said Guyana has only seen type two which is a relative mild one. He said if a person contracts two types at the same time it would be very serious as that is when a person has the DHF. In 2007 a Barbadian was hospitalised with type three but Dr Persaud noted that was the first such case and there has been no other recorded case.
Dr Persaud disclosed that the ministry has also reinforced its port health regulations and aircraft coming from certain countries, such as Trinidad, have to be sprayed. The empty spray can has to be collected by the port health official at the airport and the flight attendants are also asked to report any cases of fever that may have been brought to their attention.
“We are actively going after dengue fever and we are doing a lot more community-wise by following up on cases and visiting homes to sensitise other occupants of the household. We also advise people who have dengue to sleep under nets even during the day…” Dr Persaud said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) website dengue is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito infected with any one of the four dengue viruses. It occurs in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world and symptoms appear 3—14 days after the infective bite. Dengue fever is said to be a febrile illness that affects infants, young children and adults.
The website said that symptoms range from a mild fever to incapacitating high fever with severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, and rash. There are no specific antiviral medicines for dengue but it is important to maintain hydration.
Use of acetylsalicylic acid (eg aspirin) and non- steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (eg Ibuprofen) is not recommended.
It was stated that DHF (fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, bleeding) is a potentially lethal complication, affecting mainly children. Early clinical diagnosis and careful clinical management by experienced physicians and nurses increase survival of patients.
There are four distinct, but closely related, viruses that cause dengue. Recovery from infection by one provides lifelong immunity against that virus but confers only partial and transient protection against subsequent infection by the other three viruses. There is good evidence that sequential infection increases the risk of developing DHF.