BY KIMONE FRANCIS, Jamaica Observer
MINISTER of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton has disclosed that children between the ages of five and 14 account for the age group with the largest number of suspected and confirmed dengue-related deaths.
The revelation was made during Tufton’s statement to Parliament yesterday, where he stated that as at November 7, there were 61 suspected/confirmed deaths, of which 17 occurred in 2018 and 44 since the start of the year.
The minister noted, too, that the highest rate of dengue cases was also among that age group, followed by children one to four years.
As at November 7, the National Surveillance Unit received a total of 12,794 notifications for dengue between January 1, 2018, and November 7, 2019 — 2,235 in 2018 and 10,559 since 2019.
Of the 12,794 notifications for the period 7,179 cases, with dates of onset in the period under review, have been classified as suspected, presumed or confirmed.
The majority of the suspected/presumed/confirmed cases were females, with the burden of the number of cases greatest among the 25 to 59-year-old cohort, followed by the five to 14-year old cohort.
Last week, the Jamaica Observer interviewed a St Catherine woman, whose daughter reportedly died shortly after being infected with what doctors believed to be dengue.
The woman, 30-year-old Simone Lewis, recalled that on October 20 her daughter, eight-year-old Karrisa Downer, began complaining about having a headache.
Lewis said shortly after, Karrisa developed a fever which worsened throughout the night into the following day.
She said the child spent the morning vomiting and complained regularly about having a stomach ache.
“Mi bring her to the private doctor here in Portmore where we live. Him examine her and seh she have an infection in her throat. So he gave me antibiotics for her, not Cataflam (Diclofenac), something for the fever and something for the pain. So I was giving it to her now, that was the Monday. Couple days later I realise that she not getting better. Mi naah see nuh progress or nothing like that. I give her the medication and she keep bringing it up back,” Lewis explained.
She said, by this time, the child’s appetite had decreased and she had become increasingly weak, sleeping through most of the days.
Frustrated, Lewis said she returned to the doctor with Karrisa on Friday of that week. After an examination, the doctor theorised that Karrisa had contracted the dengue virus.
The mother said a referral was written for the Bustamante Hospital for Children, where the child was admitted hours later.
“Them seh the same thing to. Seh she have the symptoms fi dengue. So them seh them affi confirm it through a blood test, but it was it. So they did it and I was supposed to take it up the lab to confirm it but they said they know it was it,” Lewis stated.
“Once she go in the Friday everything start go downhill, downhill, downhill. It just start get worse. Them seh she even developed pneumonia while she was in the hospital. The Saturday night they realised she wasn’t breathing properly. They did an X-ray and seh fluid in her lungs and that’s why she can’t breathe properly. Early Sunday morning she start vomiting blood and stop breathe. Mi couldn’t manage it. Mi affi come out the room. Mi father was there and come tell mi froth a come out her nose and mouth. Them deh deh about 15 minutes a try get back her heart rate. When them get it back them seh them need her fi go ICU (Intensive Care Unit),” Lewis told the Observer.
She said no space was available in the ICU and so it was suggested that Karrisa be transferred to the University Hospital of the West Indies but it was later communicated that there was also no space available there.
On Sunday, the child was placed in a medically induced coma and was only transferred to the ICU on Monday when space became available.
“So she was still on the machine and she wasn’t making any progress then they said with all of the fluid her lungs got damaged. Then the kidney now stop work. All of this just happen in a short space of time but them seh a suh it work. She never did a pass out nothing, no urine. The following day she just pass off. She end up never make it,” Lewis said, confirming that Karrisa, a Naggo Head Primary School student, died on November 1.
“It’s heartbreaking for me. To sit down a watch your only child in pain and can’t breathe nuh easy. It did just rough. It break mi heart, mi a tell you. It’s hard. I can’t even stay home alone. I think about her so much,” Lewis said.
Yesterday, the minister announced that Cabinet had approved a $1-billion expenditure over three months to combat the spread of the virus.
He said this will see to the establishment of a National Dengue Coordination Committee to include a multisectoral/agency response.
Tufton said the key ministries, agencies and departments that will be called into action include: Ministry of Local Government and Community Development; Social Development Commission; National Solid Waste Management Authority; Ministry of Education, Youth and Information; Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries; and the National Works Agency.
But Opposition spokesman on health Dr Morais Guy, while expressing appreciation for the move, said the announcement was a “little too late”, noting that the minister had “fiddled while Rome burned”.
Guy rapped the minister, arguing that there were too many reported deaths, including those of young children.