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Residents Told Only a Change in Human Behavior Will Stop Dengue

July 29, 2007 — Department of Health officials told Estate Williams Delight residents Sunday they are constantly monitoring risk factors for dengue fever in their area and said a change in behavior is the only way to prevent the spread of the disease.
"We are doing door-to-door inspections every other month," said environmental health officer Steve Webster at a meeting of about 30 residents at the Williams Delight multi-purpose center. Similar inspections are conducted on St. Thomas and St. John, he said.
Webster said the health inspection team looks for risk factors such as abandoned tires, buckets and other containers that hold standing water which is a breeding ground for the disease-carrying aedes aegypti mosquito. The Williams Delight community has been identified as a "hot spot" for dengue fever. Other hot spots on the island include Estate Whim, Glynn and Barren Spot.
"You need to change your behavior and talk to your neighbors," Webster said, adding residents can call the health department if they live next to abandoned property that may be breeding the mosquito.
Health Department epidemiologist, Dr. Eugene Tull said the mosquito "has adapted itself to live around humans." He said the insect lays its eggs in artificial containers and matures when the container fills up with water. He said it is people who allow the mosquito to breed and infect others. "They depend on humans to do the right thing."
After the mosquito is born it then lives inside houses and can bite many times, he said. At night it goes into the closet or other dark place and it can travel from house to house, biting and infecting the residents, Tull explained.
Tull advised the residents to get good screens, spray the closets, keep artificial containers dry and make sure there is no stagnant water around the home. Once these measures are taken by the entire community the mosquito population will decline, Tull stated.
Although the department in the past has advocated fogging as a means to eradicate the mosquitoes, Tull said that method is not effective. The dengue-carrying mosquitoes live inside the houses. Furthermore, he said, when foggers come around neighborhoods, residents close their windows because the fog aggravates asthma sufferes.
Residents were concerned about the number of abandoned properties in the area, many of which have illegally dumped tires on them. Health officials suggested residents store and cover tires so no water can penetrate. The Waste Management Authority is responsible for tire disposal; however there is still no designated area for disposal.
A person can contract dengue several times, and each time it will become worse, Tull said. "Within a period of a week or two you can die."
In June 2005, 14-year-old Kamarah Isaac, a resident of Williams Delight, died from dengue shock syndrome, a rare complication of dengue fever.
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.
"This disease cannot happen without the cooperation of the residents," Tull said. "You have to have pride in our island" and reduce the breeding grounds of the mosquitoes.

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