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Health Department Issues Dengue-Prevention Alert

May 2, 2007 — With the recent, heavy downpours across the territory and hurricane season just around the corner, residents should take steps now to reduce their risk from dengue fever. That's according to acting Health Commissioner Phyllis L. Wallace.
In a Wednesday press release, Wallace noted that recent rains have made certain areas a haven for mosquito breeding. “The increase in the mosquito population puts residents at risk for mosquito-borne illnesses, including dengue fever,” Wallace said.
Children and seniors are at higher risk, and residents should seek medical attention promptly if they suspect they have dengue fever.
Symptoms 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, and in rare instances, the fever can lead to death.
According to the release, the department has determined that dengue fever is a reportable disease. Consequently, all medical agencies, clinics and private physicians territorywide are required to report any such cases to the Health Department’s epidemiologist, Dr. Eugene Tull, at 773-1311, Ext. 3241.
Wallace added that the department's Environmental Health Division routinely conducts larviciding of large areas of stagnant water, which kills off the eggs present in mosquito breeding grounds.
The release also notes that new fogging equipment in each district is being readied for deployment and that an announcement will be made for residents who want to request fogging in the future.
However, studies have determined that fogging alone is an inefficient way of preventing the transmission of the dengue virus. With that in mind, the department is asking residents to take preventive measures.
“Residents place themselves at risk if there are old tires, plant containers or empty drums around their homes where water can collect and provide a breeding place for mosquitoes,” Wallace said. “These containers should be emptied as frequently as possible.”
Residents should also protect themselves by repairing or replacing damaged screens or keeping windows and doors without screens closed. For very large puddles of water around the home or business, call the Environmental Health Division at 773-1311, ext. 3107 or 3109 on St. Croix and 715-5110 on St. Thomas.
Other safety measures include:
–Wearing protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks when outdoors;
–Covering infant cribs with cotton mosquito netting
–Using mosquito repellents containing DEET. Follow instructions carefully and use on arms, legs, ankles, and nape of neck. Avoid eyes, lips or bruised skin, and avoid applying repellent to children under 2 years of age and to the hands of older children.
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