Dr. Rawlins Delivers Lecture on Climate Change and Dengue Fever at UWI
By Nichole Richardson
(Basseterre; St. Kitts): Kittitian born, Dr. Samuel Rawlins, an Emeritus scientist who recently retired after fifteen years with the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) presented a lecture last evening, Thursday, Sep. 27, at the University of the West Indies Centre.
Emeritus Scientist, Dr. Samuel Rawlins
The lecture was based on the findings of a 2005 study done on: ‘Climate Change and Variability Impacting on Dengue Fever: The Caribbean Experience – Knowledge, Attitude and Practices in Trinidad & Tobago and St. Kitts &Nevis.
He outlined that there is a correlation between climate change, climate variability (seasonal changes) and dengue fever and other health issues. In August 2003 during a two week period between 22,000 - 45,000 heat related deaths across Europe were reported. World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that during the past 30 years 150,000 lives have been claimed annually due to anthropogenic climate change (man-made and green house gases). Other health impacts of Climate change may include: food and water borne diseases, respiratory diseases, heat stresses and other vector-borne diseases.
Additionally, research has shown that the highest transmission rates of dengue fever in the region, occur the year after an El Niño- a massive periodic warming of the ocean- (El Niño + 1 year), as the Caribbean tends to be wetter than usual. Also, most cases occur during the period; October – December. Hence, predictions using Climate change/Climate variability can be made to determine when the region would be more vulnerable to the transmission of the dengue fever.
The dengue fever is caused by the Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito which is of African origin.
According to Dr. Rawlins, outbreaks of dengue fever continue to plague the Caribbean region. In 2002 alone, there were eight thousand (8000) cases reported. Even St. Kitts has had its share when in 2001, 89 cases were reported, making that the biggest epidemic. He reminded the audience, that small territories such as St. Kitts and the Caribbean at large, can do very little about climate warming and we certainly cannot change variability of the climate. Thus, control has to be proactive.
Control of Dengue Fever
1. Reduction of the mosquito by environmental sanitation, through elimination of container habitats.
2. Involvement of the community to work with the public health department.
3. Use of other vector control devices e.g. chemical, physical and biological methods.
4. Patient care and public protection from virus carrying mosquitoes.
~~Adz:Left~~Chief Environment Officer, Mr. Errol Rawlins who was present at the lecture, commented that the Environmental Health Unit works arduously to ensure that dengue fever does not become an epidemic in St. Kitts.
Vector control officers carry out inspections on a daily basis and the unit is on a mission to keep the vector indices below five per cent. At the end of 2006, only the container index (no. of containers with aedes mosquito/ no. of containers inspected) was higher – 6.25 per cent. While the house index and Breateaux indices were 2.18 per cent and 3.16 per cent respectively.
Dr. Patrick Martin, another distinguished person present, raised the concern that the storage of water (which breeds the mosquito) has a link to poverty and public policy in regards to water supply in many parts of the world. Although in St. Kitts this is not an issue, there is still concern.
Dr. Rawlins reminded the audience that keeping water in open containers such as: vases, buckets, drums, tires etc easily breed the aedes mosquito which leads to dengue fever. And advised that daily checks should be done to ensure that no breeding grounds are within the home and its surrounding environ.