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St. Maarten Health Ministry opens Dengue fever training

WEDNESDAY, 06 NOVEMBER 2013

PHILIPSBURG–The Health Ministry’s Section General Health Care officially opened Dengue training at the A.C. Wathey Legislative Hall on Monday, November 4. Health Minister Cornelius de Weever officially opened the week-long training for members of public health and stakeholders.

The training aims to increase and sustain the knowledge of the trainees with respect to mosquito and dengue control. As there is no effective vaccine or medicine available as yet to interrupt dengue transmission, disease prevention through vector control is an important component of disease control, but also a very challenging one. For this reason surveillance and control of the Aegypti mosquito will receive extended attention during the training.

In addition, there will also be focus on dengue surveillance and control predominantly from a public health perspective and less from a clinical perspective or individual case management. Therefore, public education and participation will be presented; it was stated in a press release on Tuesday.

At the end of the training everything will come together when the importance of integrated collaboration of sectors will be stressed. To prepare for the future attention will be given to the possibilities of the future arrival of the Chikungunya and the Asian tiger mosquito, Ae. Albopictus. “This is a form of the Ministry moving forward as we try to obtain as much knowledge as possible to take care of our community,” said de Weever.

The facilitators for the trainings are: Public Health Professional, Dutch National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) Netherlands Dr. M. Braks; Entomologist AviaGIS Dr. Francis Schaffner and visiting senior scientist and independent research professional, Wageningen University, Netherlands Dr. H. van Berg.

In remarks at the opening ceremony, de Weever said the trainings will show that “we don’t only “talk the talk” but also “walk the walk” and will continue doing so through a continuous education approach.

De Weever alluded to the ministry’s mission statement, which says that the ministry promotes the general wellbeing and quality of life of the population by means of services such as health protection and health promotion.

The Vaccination and Vector Control Programme, he said, are two examples of programmes through which these goals are achieved. The vaccination programme started in the early ’70s with the White and Yellow Cross, at that time covering vaccination for Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio and Smallpox. In the late ’70s it was expanded with the school vaccination programme to ensure the inclusion of children in the school for their Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio vaccination.

By the end of 2000, government had gradually increased the coverage for vaccine preventable diseases by including Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Hemophilus Influenza and Hepatitis B.

In April 2013, vaccinations against Pneumococcal disease started; and, in October 2013, the ministry also started vaccinating girls with the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine protecting them against Cervical Cancer.

“At this time we have more than 20,000 children registered in our database. Our Vector Control Programme also started around the same time as the Vaccination Programme in the early ’70s in the battle against yellow fever,” he said.

The yellow fever and combating of mosquitoes programme was initiated and set up by Charles Maccow under the auspices of the then Hygiene Department. Over time the concern gradually expanded to other mosquitoes and for other vectors such as rodents spreading diseases such as Leptospirosis or the Weil’s disease arose. With the change of country status in 2010, the Assistant Vector Controllers together with this programme were transferred to Collective Prevention Services, the minister said.

“At this moment it is suggested to change the name of the programme to Vector and Rodent control to make it more representative of our scope of work. Major attention of the programme is directed towards dengue prevention and control.”

He said the vision of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour is to be a knowledge institute which will result in being the recognised government authority for public health, social development, social security and labour-related policy and service domains.

“Being a knowledge institute and being recognised as an authority means believing in and having a culture of continuous education,” he said

The minister urged participants to make good use of the experts here for the training and to ask as many questions as they can.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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