Saint Lucia records its first dengue-related death

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By Ministry of Health, St Lucia

CASTRIES, St Lucia – The ministry of health and wellness continues to note increases in trends of dengue viral infection; reported one dengue-related death. The individual is an adult male who was hospitalized after presenting with signs and symptoms of severe dengue infection.

In August, the ministry declared an outbreak of dengue fever. To date, Saint Lucia has recorded a total of 540 confirmed cases of dengue fever. Cases have been identified throughout the island, most of the confirmed cases are concentrated in the northern region in areas such as Castries, Gros Islet and Central Babonneau. The ages of confirmed cases range from three weeks to 84 years, with the age group 5-14 years accounting for approximately 39 percent of cases.

Dengue fever is a viral illness spread by the bite of the species Aedes aegypti mosquito and, to a lesser extent, Aedes Albopictus. It is endemic to Saint Lucia, meaning that there is continued local transmission which often peaks during and after rainy seasons.

There are four serotypes of the virus that cause dengue fever (DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3 and DENV-4). In the past, all four serotypes of dengue virus have been known to circulate. Persons receive lifelong immunity against a serotype once infected with it; however, cross-immunity to the other serotypes after recovery is only temporary. Infection with one serotype makes an individual more susceptible to a more severe form of dengue if that individual becomes infected with another serotype.

In 2020, both serotypes 2 and 3 have been in circulation, thereby increasing the likelihood of persons presenting with the severe form of dengue. About 75 percent of dengue infections are asymptomatic or produce a very mild febrile illness. Persons with mild dengue fever may present with fever, headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pains and a red itchy rash. With severe dengue, persons may experience bleeding from the gums or nose, vomiting blood or passing blood in the stool and/or severe abdominal pain. Approximately five percent of persons progress to this severe form of dengue infection.

There is no specific treatment for dengue fever and management is supportive based on presenting signs and symptoms. Because the vector requires water to breed, the public is asked to assist in the control of dengue fever by eliminating breeding sites in and around their homes.

This can be done by discarding of all open containers with stagnant water in and surrounding your home regularly; using insect repellent, which may be applied directly to the skin, clothing or mosquito nets; wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants especially during the hours of highest mosquito activity. Together we can work to improve the dengue situation in Saint Lucia.

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