Five days after students returned to classroom for the first time this year, and three days after the Teachers’ Union raised the issues, all students in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are being allowed to wear long clothes to school to avoid the mosquito-borne disease dengue.
As of January this year, dengue had killed at least eight people in SVG, including five students during the current outbreak.
And, on Tuesday, President of the SVG Teachers’ Union, Oswald Robinson, noted at a union press conference that students were told to wear their full uniform to school, even as the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Simone Keizer-Beache was warning that dengue remains an issue.
“Somebody is not thinking right,” said Robinson, who also highlighted some of the situations on and around school campuses that contributed to mosquitos breeding and the dengue problem.
Then, on Friday, the Ministry of Education, in a circular to heads of all educational institutions, said that with immediate effect schools are to revert to the recommendations provided by the CMO that were implemented during the last academic year to reduce the spread of dengue fever.
“Accordingly, students are permitted to wear long pants, tights and long sleeve tops if their parents desire for them to do so,” the ministry said.
It referred to the recommendations that were received last year from the CMO and said that principals should ensure that the recommendations are once again implemented to reduce the risk of dengue fever infection.
“We urge you to advise your staff, students, parents and all other stakeholders accordingly. We shall continue to work together to provide a safe environment for all users of our schools. Your usual support is anticipated if we are going to achieve this objective,” the ministry said.
In a communiqué to the Chief Education Officer on Sept. 21, 2020, Keizer-Beache said that the current Dengue Fever Outbreak, first noted in July 2020, was the worse the country had seen to date.
She said that predominance of the disease in the younger age groups was most likely due to the fact that the Aedes aegypti mosquito which carries the dengue fever virus typically bites during the day time when persons are at school.
“Additionally, the school population is vulnerable because the last outbreaks in St. Vincent and the Grenadines were in 2010 and 2012, and so persons younger than 8 years old have had no exposure to Dengue fever and so no chance of immunity,” Keizer-Beache said.
She made the following recommendations, which the Ministry of Education is again adopting:
- Reducing the breeding of the mosquito by:
- discarding stagnant water collected in containers about the compound;
- properly covering stored water.
- Reducing rubbish and over grown bush around the schools.
- Allow students to wear long pants, tights and long sleeved tops.
- Encourage the use of insect repellent.
- Opening schools to allow increased effectiveness of fogging by the Vector Control Unit.
- Encourage principals to inform their Health Nursing Supervisors of their staff and students who have been diagnosed with Dengue Fever.