June 27, 2005 Health Department spokesman Eunice Bedminster confirmed Monday that a 14-year-old St. Croix girl died June 18 at Juan F. Luis Hospital of dengue shock syndrome, a rare complication of dengue fever. She identified the girl as Kamarah Isaac.
The department had suspected that dengue fever caused the girl's death but had to send blood samples to the Centers for Disease Control in Puerto Rico for confirmation.
In a news release, Bedminster said that Medical Examiner Dr. Michelle DuPre still must analyze test results to determine the specific type of dengue fever involved in the case.
Bedminster said that the department's epidemiologist, Dr. Eugene Tull, will hold a press conference Wednesday to discuss the details of the current dengue outbreak. The conference will be held at 10 a.m. at the Charles Harwood complex.
She said that it appears that St. Croix has a more severe dengue problem than St. Thomas and St. John, but the department is having trouble getting private physicians to report cases.
Health Commissioner Darlene Carty said in the news release that dengue fever is a reportable disease. Therefore, all medical agencies, clinics and private physicians across the territory are required to report any such cases to the Health Department.
"However, our statistics indicate that much of the reported cases have been from the territorys hospitals and not private physicians," she said. "Physicians are our next best protector because once we receive their reports, we should be able to determine the hot areas for suspected dengue fever cases and get our troops activated."
Symptoms of dengue fever include severe headache, joint and muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, high fever, and loss of appetite. A rash may also appear three to four days after the fever begins.
Bedminster said that residents should seek medical attention promptly if they suspect they have dengue fever.
She said that if the department knows where cases occur, it can investigate and fog the area, if necessary, to get rid of the mosquitoes.
However, she said that even if the Health Department sprays in your neighborhood, you could still get bitten when you visit another location.
Bedminster said that since there is no vaccine for dengue fever, residents are their own first line of defense. She urged residents to empty standing water and get rid of old tires that harbor water in order to reduce areas where mosquitoes can breed. She said that potted plants may also contain standing water.
"Make sure your [door and window] screens are properly attached," she added.
Carty urged residents to wear protective clothing — such as long-sleeve shirts and long pants tucked into socks — when outside. She also suggested covering infant cribs with cotton mosquito netting and using mosquito repellents containing DEET.
The department advised residents to follow insect repellent instructions carefully and use on arms, legs, ankles, and nape of neck. Also, avoid eyes, lips or bruised skin and don't apply repellent to children under two years of age or to the hands of younger children, who might put them in their mouth.
Bedminster said that the Health Department has removed standing water from places, such as the Aureo Diaz Heights public housing community, after being notified about the problem.
She previously said that since January, 25 suspected cases were reported on St. Croix, 34 on St. Thomas and five on St. John.
The department requested that suspected dengue fever cases be reported to Tull. Reporting forms are available by calling 773-1311, ext. 3241. Forms should be faxed to 713-1508.
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