The Health and Education Departments are working together to try to eradicate mosquitoes around Ricardo Richards Elementary School out of concern about dengue fever after a handful of students were sent home last week with elevated fevers and other flu-like symptoms, according to the Education Department.
The origin of the cases is not known for certain, but Education is taking a cautious approach, according to the statement.
In the past few weeks, the Department of Health has taken steps to eliminate possible mosquito breeding grounds around the school, and Education’s maintenance teams have "been vigilant about keeping the campus free of any standing pools of water," the release said.
Working together, the two departments have also been doing mosquito assessments at other schools that have previously had a high number of dengue cases.
At this point, two cases of dengue have been confirmed at the school, according to Education's statement, which says no other cases have been reported or confirmed and that all remaining students exhibiting flu-like symptoms have been attended by the school’s nurse and sent home.
"In general, the department is always on alert for this kind of activity," said Education Commissioner LaVerne Terry in the statement. "We will continue to work with the Department of Health in case other cases are reported at any of our schools."
Over the next few days, Education will also be applying insect repellent within the school buildings, and urges parents to apply repellent at home, if possible, before sending their children to school.
Parents can also send their child to school with a pack of insect repellent wipes or lotion that can be applied under the supervision of the nurse throughout the day, but should not send spray-on repellent, the release clarified.
Parents should seek medical care if they notice their children exhibiting any flu-like or dengue symptoms, which can include a high fever along with headache, joint and muscle pain, pain behind the eyes, nausea, vomiting and a rash.
The only way to determine if a person has dengue is by laboratory testing done on a blood sample. Some people with dengue also develop warning signs such as severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, bleeding, lethargy, pale and cold skin, or difficulty breathing. These warning signs may indicate that the patient has a severe case of the disease and should be treated urgently.
“We are working closely with the Department of Health to ensure that we are doing everything we can to protect our students, administrators and faculty members, and we thank Commissioner Darice Plaskett and her staff for continuing to assess and help mitigate this situation,” St. Croix Superintendent Gary Molloy said this week.
“At this point, there have been no other confirmed cases,” he said, “but we are asking parents to help us by monitoring their children when they return from school and also doing what they can to minimize any possible mosquito threats at home. Dengue is a serious virus and we must all work together to take the proper precautions.”
Health officials have asked that any confirmed cases of dengue be reported immediately to the department.