Environmental Health Officer empty drum; Jefferson Scotland, Chief Environmental Health Officer; engorged mosquito
Environmental Health Officer empty drum; Jefferson Scotland, Chief Environmental Health Officer; engorged mosquito

Anthony Scotland, Dominica's Chief Environmental Health Officer is calling on Dominicans to be more vigilant as the spread of Chikungunya disease continues.

On Monday last week, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CPHA) reported that Dominica has 56 confirmed cases of the disease and 394 suspected cases.

"Cumulatively, since the outbreak to presently, we are about six hundred cases but I can say safely that we are still putting in the necessary measures in place and our emphasis remains on prevention," Scotland stated.

The CPHA said: "Since Chikungunya was discovered in Saint Martin in December 2013, additional cases have been reported in other countries/territories in the Caribbean Region. To date, cases of Chikungunya have been confirmed in Anguilla, Aruba, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barthelemy, St. Kitts and Nevis, Sint Maarten and St. Martin. The total number of confirmed/probable cases has reached 2,855".

Martinique has by far the largest number of confirmed cases- 1141 and that French territory has 7630 suspected cases. Guadeloupe is next with 586 confirmed and 1960 suspected cases.

Chikungunya is a viral infection transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. Symptoms include a fever up to 40 °C (104 °F), a rash of the trunk and occasionally the limbs, and arthritis affecting multiple joints. Other symptoms can include headache, nausea, vomiting, conjunctivitis, slight photophobia and partial loss of taste.

"What I can say to you is that from where the disease was to now, is of concern to us in the sense that it has continued to spread in many other places in Dominica… we have seen increases in the town of Portsmouth, Grand Bay, Roseau, Goodwill, Mahaut, Massacre and surroundings," Scotland said.

He added that in Dominica the disease started in the Bath Estate, King's Hill and Woodford Hill areas but now it is present in various parts of the island.

Scotland advises that people need to understand that they must do the right thing to get the disease under control.

"In fact, I can say that people have the wrong views and a misconception about the disease with some saying that it is air borne and coming from the sea and is bad air. "Well, people need to know that it is not bad air and it is not spread through sexual contacts but it is spread by an Aedes aegypti mosquito biting you and that is the message we want to send out to the people out there," he said.

The Environmental Health Department, he said, is still very much concerned about the presence of water drums in yards in communities despite the fact that the Department has advised against keeping these drums. Even persons who have been infected with Chikungunya keep these water drums, he said.

"The mosquito is very smart since they lay eggs in dry places and so it is very difficult to manage that mosquito, so we have to be very vigilant. The report shows that we are not alone in the struggle since a number of islands in the region are also affected but I am worried because this disease affects productivity in the workplace," Scotland said.

Medical officials have advised that the situation does not warrant panic by the public and that persons should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites by using repellants, nets and mosquito coils. And empty those drums.