In 2016 the Ministry of Public Health recorded 9,415 new cases of malaria, 842 cases of dengue fever, 35 lab confirmed cases of zika and 135 cases of chikungunya.
Minister within the Ministry Dr Karen Cummings explained to reporters at the ministry’s end-of-year press conference that the Vector Control Unit has been working to improve the control of vector-borne illnesses throughout Guyana by implementing tools such as vector surveillance, early diagnosis and treatment, information, education and communication.
Though the unit has faced the challenges of a weak entomology unit, a limited laboratory surveillance network and inadequate human resources for the implementation of vector control activities, efforts towards combating these diseases continue.
She noted that efforts towards fighting malaria which is spread by the Anopheles mosquito, focused in part on the training of health care workers in malaria case management.
“Seventy-nine persons from Regions 1, 7 and 8 were trained, and training is currently ongoing in Region 9. Twenty-two health workers were trained from the remaining regions of Guyana. Training of health care workers at the Georgetown Prison was also conducted,” she said.
She also explained that as part of a pilot programme, 96 miners from mining areas such as Black Water, Jumbie Creek, Micobie, Konawaruk in Region 8 were trained to use malaria rapid testing kits, and to administer treatment for uncomplicated cases of malaria, so as to heighten efforts towards the early detection of malaria.
Additionally, the department increased its public awareness campaign on malaria and continued routine distribution of long-lasting insecticide nets at public health facilities in the malaria endemic regions.
In relation to the main diseases spread by the Aedes mosquito, namely dengue, chikungunya and zika, the ministry has highlighted the emergence of zika as one of its major challenges in 2016.
The first case of zika was diagnosed in January, 2016 and lab confirmed cases show distribution in most of the ten administrative regions, with greater incidence along the coastal regions of Guyana. As a result, the government has increased surveillance at the ports and other places throughout Guyana, inclusive of the hinterland and coastal regions. The surveillance has mainly been syndromic since this is the simplest way to capture suspected cases.
The ministry has noted that in the cases of zika, laboratory surveillance is faced with the challenge of inadequate testing of suspected zika cases, since only five samples can be tested per week.
After months of depending on the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to conduct these tests, the Guyana National Reference Lab became capable of performing the tests two weeks ago. The ministry has not indicated if this will lead to an increase in the number of tests that can be conducted weekly.