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Health Minister Emphasises Importance Of Screening At Ports Of Entry

Health Minister Emphasises Importance Of Screening At Ports Of Entry
Health Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, emphasises a point while addressing last Friday’s (March 31) launch of the Mosquito Control and Research Unit at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus in St. Andrew.
(Media Credit: Donald Delahaye)

KINGSTON (JIS) -- Health Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, has underscored the importance of screening at Jamaica’s ports of entry to safeguard the country against the re-emergence of vector-borne diseases, such as chikungunya, malaria, Zika, dengue and yellow fever. He pointed out that the onset of many of these diseases often results from persons becoming infected while on visits to high-risk countries and returning to Jamaica with the virus. The Minister was speaking at the launch of the Mosquito Control and Research Unit at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, on March 31. He noted that in the case of the Zika virus, the most recent vector-borne disease impacting Jamaica, “the first case discovered (involved) a gentleman who had travelled to an affected country”. “As we all have witnessed, it only takes one case and the entire country becomes at risk (for an outbreak), with severe implications in many ways,” the Minister said. Dr. Tufton argued that screening is essential in the Ministry’s holistic joint stakeholder approach to arresting transmission via mosquito control and eradication, among other pivotal interventions.

The Minister said while the attendant implications of outbreaks necessitated stringent monitoring of travel patterns, the Ministry is also cognisant of the challenges some persons have reported encountering at ports of entry.

“We have received complaints about people being held up at airports because public health officers are asking for their immunisation cards, and they have to join long lines,” he noted.

Dr. Tufton said it is not the Ministry’s intention to impede or restrict trade or the movement of people, and the Ministry would look at the screening arrangements at the ports of entry to see if improvements are needed.

“There is a reason for it (screening measures)… and it’s something that we need to get across to all concerned. So, the holistic approach will be enhanced through a (Mosquito Control and Research) Unit of this kind,” he added.

The Unit, which is a collaborative undertaking between the Ministry and the UWI, will be based at the tertiary institution’s Mona Campus in St. Andrew.

It will be responsible for coordinating best practices in integrated vector management and research into mosquito control and eradication.

An entomologist, who will head the Unit, will coordinate the resulting work from the collaboration between the Ministry’s Vector Control Unit and the UWI’s research.

Other stakeholders that will be incorporated include the UWI’s International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS), Jamaica Red Cross, Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the National Youth Service (NYS).