Avoiding dengue and chikungunya in Barbados

{EDITORS’ NOTE – This was a community notice submitted between residents of a local district, but the data enclosed has a wider bearing and so while the names are changed, the context remains valid and needs action – feel free to use the Comments box below to add any necessary input to make a change for the better?}

I am writing to Barbadians in the hope that we can assemble our efforts to reduce the large population of mosquitoes in every district and the risk for our communities from dengue fever and the new disease-on-the-block, chikungunya. The mosquito-borne chikungunya shares many of the nasty symptoms of dengue, including headaches, fatigue, joint and muscle pain and fever. With chikungunya the pain may be concentrated in the extremities; the bones of the fingers, toes, wrists and ankles. The long term effects of chikungunya can be more serious than dengue as it can cause arthritic permanent damage to and pain in the joints.

Chikungunya is increasingly common in the Caribbean. While currently there are only eleven confirmed cases in Barbados, almost all our neighbouring countries have many more cases, with some having over a thousand confirmed cases and many times more suspected cases. Given Barbados’ position as a travel hub and the numbers of mosquitoes on the island there is real potential for rapid spread of the disease. Especially in areas where mosquito infestation seems to have become an unpleasant fact of life.

Collective action is really helpful to combat diseases like chikungunya and dengue. Please let us all inspect our properties and remove any stagnant waters where mosquito larvae can develop, including not only well-known sites such as puddles, ponds, plant saucers and tyres but small areas such as corners of drains and gutters that do not run off completely. One issue of concern is the empty residences in the neighbourhood where such breeding sites can develop unchecked. Any suggestions to address the risk posed by these sites would be welcome.

Collective action is really helpful to combat diseases like chikungunya and dengue. Please let us all inspect our properties and remove any stagnant waters where mosquito larvae can develop, including not only well-known sites such as puddles, ponds, plant saucers and tyres but small areas such as corners of drains and gutters that do not run off completely. One issue of concern is the empty residences in the neighbourhood where such breeding sites can develop unchecked. Any suggestions to address the risk posed by these sites would be welcome.

Occasionally the Ministry of Health’s Vector Control Unit fogs for mosquitoes, but this is a very temporary measure and the mosquitoes quickly find a way back. Our family has reported the mosquito problems we face on several occasions to the MOH, but has seen no further action beyond a cursory inspection of properties.

I recognize I may be preaching to the converted and many of you already know and are concerned about the situation. But I think it may be helpful, given the new threat of chikungunya, to think about how an all-out Barbadian effort might be more successful than that of individual households alone. I would be pleased to hear from anyone with ideas and to work to reduce the mosquito population in our country.

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