Wednesday 30 September, 2020

Health Ministry reaching out to Venezuelans to treat malaria cases

Photo: The female Anopheles mosquito is known for spreading malaria.

Photo: The female Anopheles mosquito is known for spreading malaria.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said measures are being taken to treat with an increase in malaria cases by reaching out to Venezuelan migrants, who are the majority of reported cases.

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday in response to an urgent question, Deyalsingh said the matter has been a priority since June 2018. 

“The issue of malaria is being dealt with at a strategic level since June 2018, when as Minister of Health I alerted the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of the potential threat.

“The Prime Minister, in his wisdom, agreed to set up an inter-ministerial committee to deal with the issue. On that committee sits CARPHA, PAHO, the Ministry of Health, Finance, Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, (Ministry of) National Security, (Ministry of) Tourism and the Tobago House of Assembly," he said. 

Deyalsingh said the committee has formed strong links with a non-governmental organisation liaising with both Venezuelan and Trinidad and Tobago citizens, as well as the Living Waters community, to reach out to the migrant population, especially Venezuelan nationals, to identify potential malaria cases and treat them.

“We have also done bilingual flyers so that Venezuelans, who are the majority of reported cases, could have the information ready for them," he said. 

Deyalsingh said the response procedure regarding malaria cases is guided by the World Health Organisation.

He referred to a malaria case in Roussilac which was treated.

“For example, we had a case in December in Roussilac. For that particular case – and the numbers would vary from case to case – we would have done perifocal treatment (mosquito larvicidal control) for about 250 houses which includes examination and education.

“We would have found houses positive for the Anopheles mosquito. Based on that we would have done residual spraying for 42 houses and ultra-low-volume spraying for 350 houses,” he said.

Deyalsingh said the key to targeting the malaria outbreak lies in mosquito control and prevention.

“What you try to do with these protocols is choose about a one-mile radius, which will vary depending on population density…you will do blood smears – in that particular case we did 31 blood smears,” he said.

When asked whether checks are being done at the country’s ports, Deyalsingh replied health screening does take place.

“Testing for malaria requires blood samples, which is very invasive. It is not the policy anywhere in the world, at ports of entry, as people disembark from a plane or a ship to, en masse, take people’s blood samples.”

“What we do, is at ports of entry, under the auspices of the County Medical Officers of Health, you do have screening and surveillance that takes place there, whether it’s at the airport at the port of Port of Spain or in Cedros…but it’s not the policy anywhere in the world to take blood samples of people coming into your country,” he said.

In December 2018 the country recorded 38 cases of malaria, which was 13 more than the total number of cases for the year.

36 of those 38 cases were imported with 22 from Guyana and one from Ghana.

However the Health Ministry emphasised that the situation was not an outbreak and merely an increase in the number of cases. 

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