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Chikungunya Prevention Strategies to be Developed for Schools

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Representatives of the Ministries of Health, and Education, are scheduled to meet on August 19 to explore and develop strategies to prevent any possible threat of a spread which the Chikungunya virus could pose for schools, currently preparing for September’s start of the 2014/15 academic year.

In noting that the Education Ministry deems the virus a “major threat” to schools, Portfolio Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, says the meeting aims to facilitate discussions on how best to deal with this situation.

“(The) meeting is scheduled for…us to be able to issue clear directives to all our Principals in all schools,” he said, while speaking at the Ministry’s Region Three office back to school conference at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort in Ocho Rios, St. Ann, on Friday, August 15.

Rev. Thwaites advised that all matters, including information available at medical facilities that have dealt with Chikungunya cases, will be taken into consideration during the discussion.

A Health Ministry update, issued on Friday, August 15, indicates that the number of confirmed Chikungunya virus cases in Jamaica has increased, by two, to 10. The advisory states that eight of these were contracted from local transmission, with the others being imported.

The affected parishes remain St. Thomas, St. Catherine, St. Ann, and Kingston and St. Andrew.

Chikungunya is spread by the bite of an infected Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which is generally found in and around places inhabited by people. Symptoms of infection include : joint pain and high fever.

The Ministry encourages persons to protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellent containing DEET; covering their bodies as much as possible by wearing garments, such as long sleeved clothing; and putting mesh on doors and windows.

Persons are also urged to search for and destroy mosquito breeding sites by getting rid of old tyres and containers in which water can settle; punching holes in tins before disposing; and covering large drums, barrels, and tanks holding water.

For more information persons may contact the Ministry’s Emergency Operations Centre at 1-888-663-5683 or 1-888-ONE-LOVE.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reports that, as at August 1, 31 countries and territories in the Americas have confirmed local Chikungunya transmission, and another 23 with imported cases.

To date, there have been a total of 508,122 suspected cases reported. Of this number, 4,736 have been confirmed as being locally transmitted, and 535 confirmed as imported cases. Thirty-two deaths have, thus far, been reported.

By Marlon Tingling

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