Above: Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (UN Photo/J Carrier)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller says the country is in a “national emergency” over the outbreak of the mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus in the country.
The virus, which is similar in symptoms to Dengue fever, often leads to fever and severe joint pain that can last from a few days to, in some cases, for years, though it is rarely fatal.
The disease has spread across the Caribbean region after initially appearing in St Martin in late 2013, but has hit Jamaica particularly hard.
“I want to stress that we are in a NATIONAL emergency,” Simpson Miller said at a briefing on Tuesday. “I have therefore, assumed a lead role in mobilizing the nation and national resources.”
She said she sympathized with those across Jamaica who had come down with the painful illness.
“I understand that some MPs even as we speak are out with the virus,” she said. “I want to commend MPs, Mayors and Councillors who have been active in encouraging your constituents to get involved in the only sustainable way to control and reduce the epidemic – which is, to destroy and reduce mosquito breeding sites.”
She said the government had called on about $4.5 million USD in state resources for national health emergency response, with the objective of reducing mosquito breeding sites by starting with the worst-affected areas.
“This is our country,” she said. “We all have a stake and a vested interest in protecting it and in keeping our people safe and healty.”
There have been almost 800,000 suspected cases in the Caribbean region, with the majority in the Dominican Republic.