Health chief calls on public to prevent dengue

By John McPhaul

With hurricane season fast approaching, Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López asked citizens on Tuesday not to lower their guard against mosquito-borne diseases and to take preventive measures to avoid the unintentional creation of breeding sites of dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

“Our call is for prevention. We are three weeks away from the start of the rainy season and we want all families to know that beyond COVID-19, dengue is still out there. Cases have been increasing and we do not want to lose any more lives to dengue,” Mellado López said in a written statement, after announcing that he will soon begin an orientation campaign for citizens on dengue. “It is everyone’s responsibility to take action and establish measures to eliminate containers that promote stagnation of water on patios.”

According to a Health Department report, the island municipalities with the highest number of identified cases of dengue were: San Juan (127), Bayamón (21), Carolina (19), Guaynabo (14), Trujillo Alto (11), Toa Baja (7) and Guayama (7).

Children between the ages of five and nine were the most likely to acquire the dengue virus. Also, the first fatal case of the year due to dengue was announced: a 42-year-old female from the San Juan metropolitan area. Another case has been analyzed and the results are pending.

“With the global pandemic we are facing, we have noticed how the use of a mask does protect us, with a reduction in the cases of vector-borne diseases,” Mellado López said.

“However, while we take care of COVID-19, we cannot forget about dengue. At this time, 97 hospitalizations have been registered so far this year, of which 13 cases have been severe and one fatal.”

Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends once a week emptying, covering or throwing away any item in which water accumulates such as tires, tanks, buckets, vases or trash cans. The hollows of trees should also be filled in to prevent them from filling with water, thereby preventing mosquito breeding and propagation.

It is important to remember that mosquitoes actually rest in dark and damp areas such as under patio furniture or on the back of garage doors.

In addition, 13 cases of infection by Zika have been reported, of which four resulted in hospitalizations and were in the 15-19-year-old age group. At present, no case of chikungunya has been identified on the island.

During 2020, 844 confirmed cases and 321 hospitalizations for mosquito-borne viruses were identified in Puerto Rico. However, no deaths were attributed to dengue, something that has been attributed to the public health emergency brought about by coronavirus infections.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared, in order to prevent public health risks, an environmental emergency to activate all the necessary measures for the management and disposal of used tires, a large mosquito breeding ground.

“I declared a state of environmental emergency and activated the necessary protocols for the disposal of tires. Faced with the problem with the excess of used tires, we are working on a comprehensive strategy that includes the filing of a bill to establish the minimum standards in tire installations, an administrative order of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources to work with the export of tires, and this Executive Order to allow the use of tires as a mixture of asphalt on highways,” the governor said in a written statement.