Deyalsingh denies being negligent on dengue fever rise

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Deyalsingh denies being negligent on dengue fever rise

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has clapped back, after the Opposition’s Caroni East MP Rishad Seecharan, accused him of being negligent to the rise in dengue fever cases.

Seecharan also called on Deyalsingh to declare dengue a public health emergency.

However, in a response to Seecharan, Deyalsingh, in a Newsday interview, said that his ministry had prepared medical staff, educated the general public and worked to eradicate mosquitoes, all since February.

Deyalsingh noted that “Over-exposure to chemical spraying results in two dangerous outcomes: One, the mosquitoes build up resistance so creating a bigger long-term problem where the mosquitoes will not be controlled. Two, over-exposure can be harmful to human and animal health.

“That is why source reduction by eliminating breeding sites in our homes, schools, workplaces and places of worship where we spend many hours is critical.”

He urged a focus on property owners eliminating breeding sites, for example, flower pot saucers, guttering and water containers.

Deyalsingh said: “Politicising this issue as the UNC is doing is not helping the public to understand the issue.”

Seecheran, however, during the UNC’s Sunday morning press conference earlier, alleged Deyalsingh had been “sleeping on the job” amid a massive surge across TT, whereby dengue was set to become “the covid19 of 2024.”

He also accused the minister of “downplaying the magnitude of the current surge in cases.”

He said public sector doctors were viewing dengue as a public health emergency yet lacked resources while being afraid to speak out.

Seecheran said the ministry listed the main cases as in County Caroni (31 per cent), County Victoria (29 per cent) and County St Patrick (23 per cent).

“Eight-three per cent of confirmed cases are in central and southern constituencies,” he said.

Woodland, Icacos, Granville and Bamboo were among the hardest hit areas.

“Dengue season in Trinidad coincides with the rainy season, which is from May to November.”

Saying the WHO said 2023 had the most cases on record, he said Puerto Rico has declared a dengue public health emergency, with more cases so far this year than all of 2023.

“The crisis in Puerto Rico was a warning sign for the rest of the Caribbean.”

Alleging negligence by Deyalsingh and his ministry, Seecheran said dengue is on the rise but vulnerable communities had not been targeted for help to curb the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Seecheran said the ministry must visit rural, vulnerable communities to target those who need help the most.

Alleging a public health emergency, he alleged the Insect Vector Control Division (IVCD) was lacking vehicles, spraying chemicals and personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers.

Seecheran also alleged a lack of a public campaign in the press and television to educate the public, saying Deyalsingh’s promise of activities on June 15 came after a proliferation of mosquitoes, saying, “Too late Minister Deyalsingh!”

He said people should be told the signs and symptoms of dengue, which he said included high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes and joint pain, while severe dengue symptoms included severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, rapid breathing and bleeding gums or nose.

Citizens must protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long clothing and using nets, repellents, coils and vaporisers, Seecheran urged.

He alleged the IVCD had to rotate its vehicles between counties when each county should have its own fleet to undertake spraying, resulting in municipal corporations having to take up the slack. Seecheran said the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation was spraying 1,000 homes per day.

He called on Minister of Local Government Faris Al-Rawi to ensure corporations got funding on time to combat the mosquito infestation and wanted action from the Ministry of Works and Transport.

“Now is not the time to play politics with the lives of people.

“In all central and southern constituencies, MPs are on record of requesting assistance with clogged drains and overgrown watercourses in the areas close to residential areas, where the mosquitoes could thrive. “These pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

“I, again, make an appeal on behalf of citizens that the Ministry of Works and Transport, as well as the Ministry of Local Government, immediately mobilise their resources to clear these watercourses that are havens for mosquito proliferation, as the mosquito breeds in stagnant water.”

Newsday tried to contact Sinanan and Al-Rawi via WhatsApp but up to press time, had got no responses.