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Health Department, Housing Authority Failing to Respond to Dengue Outbreak

Commissioner Carty where are you? The Department of Health and the V.I. Housing Authority have been silent in the wake of the discovery of illegally dumped tires inside #281, an abandoned building in the Williams Delight housing community.
In a press release from Department of Health, Commissioner Darlene Carty reported that the tires were "cleaned up" the same day. But further investigation into the matter proved that claim was not true. Neighbors reported that the tires were just moved inside the building. Photos of the tires heaped inside the building were featured in subsequent news reports.
The tires and the mosquitoes they are breeding still present a potentially deadly hazard to neighborhood residents. The Williams Delight housing community has over 300 homes and most of the families living there have young children. The area's children are living in a powder keg that is about to blow at any time.
The homes on either side of #281 have young children living there. Two children, ages 14 and 15, who live next door, have already contracted the disease. On the other side of #281 three children — ages 6, 2 and 18 months — are left in the loving care of their grandparents while their mother works, but their grandparents cannot protect them from the sting of an infected mosquito. Children ride their bikes through stagnant water caught in guts that are clogged with mud and debris. The DOH has stated that each time the disease is contracted, the patients' immune system is compromised and the possibility of death is increased.
No preventive measures were taken to reduce or eradicate the dengue-infected mosquitoes living in the abandoned tires. The Department of Health did not fog the building. The V.I. Housing Authority did not make arrangements to shred or bale the tires. Instead, the tires were unceremoniously thrown into a dark damp environment – a perfect place to continue growing another batch of Aedea aegypti mosquitoes.
Are there going to be any repercussions to the DOH officials who said the area was cleaned up? What about the V.I. Housing Authority? Who is taking the blame for this disaster? As of Sunday evening the tires have not been removed from the abandoned building. Neighbors say no Health officials have returned to the area. Does another child need to die in Williams Delight before action is taken?
The Directors of Health Promotion and Education (DHPE), on its Web site, specifically points to an "increase in non-biodegradable plastic packaging and discarded tires," which is creating new breeding grounds for mosquitoes. The V.I. government cannot continue to ignore the severity of the consequences of illegally dumped tires.
The most recent statistics from the DOH report 36 confirmed cases of dengue on St. Croix. More than half of this number is from people who had dengue before. Just last week, 11 more cases on St. Croix were confirmed. There have been more than 200 suspected cases of dengue on St. Croix. Isn't it obvious to everyone that residents are contracting dengue fever at an alarming rate? When is action going to be taken to lessen the dangers to residents?
On St. Thomas the DOH reports 9 cases of dengue fever and three on St. John. The figures for St. Thomas and St. John are over a month old, according to the DOH. Epidemiologist Dr. Eugene Tull said recently that statistics for those islands have not been updated. In fact, the numbers for the entire Virgin Islands may be underreported because the DOH has admitted that private physicians are not sending in the number of cases they have confirmed or suspected.
What is going on with our government? Is the possibility of a real dengue fever epidemic being suppressed because of economic concerns? Where is the governor's response to this public health crisis?
The most vulnerable of our citizens, the very young and the very old, are at risk.
Who is going to protect the low-income families in Williams Delight, Mutual Homes, Aureo Diaz, Barren Spot and Estate Glynn from this plague of disease-carrying mosquitoes?
Editors note:We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to HREF="mailto:source@viaccess.net">source@viaccess.net.

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