Wed | Dec 2, 2020

Mark Wignall | Dengue: Is Dr Ford confusing us?

Published:Thursday | December 12, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Last Monday, while I was hosting the mid-morning talk show on Nationwide Radio, ‘Cliff Hughes Online’, the well-known medical professional, Dr Jephthah Ford, called the programme.

On his mind and lips was the subject of dengue and how best the country and its people could deal with the outbreak. While Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton implores people with lingering flu and pain to immediately seek out a doctor, Dr Ford sees it quite differently.

“I’ve been a medical professional for 40 years. If you or your child is having a fever and pain, to go to the hospital could make it worse. Where I would advise you to remain is at home, take Cetamol and drink a lot of fluids. If you go to the hospital or health centre, there is more than likely to be a higher than usual percentage of dengue patients.

“They have no nets in these facilities and all it takes are a few mosquitoes flying around in the hospitals biting and infecting more than a few in the waiting area. Again, unless you see things like bleeding, remain at home, take your Cetamol and constantly hydrate.”

Further on in the programme, it occurred to me that the views of Dr Ford could be interpreted to mean that Nationwide was endorsing his controversial approach, and so I had to draw distance from it. The only medical advice that Nationwide could give on dengue was that given by the Ministry of Health and Wellness and authorised medical professionals.

Whatever the medical approach models on dengue containment that have been examined at the governmental level, Minister Tufton has to err on the side of caution by advising Jamaicans with flu-like symptoms to head to the doctor immediately.

Maybe there is a likelihood that in game theory the math favours Dr Ford’s approach, but the problem with that is there are no widgets involved. One mistake could mean one person dead.


In November, Dr Tufton told Parliament that, for the period January 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019, there were 135 suspected and confirmed dengue-related deaths in Jamaica. These included 47 cases in 2018 and 88 in 2019. He also reported that there were 10 suspected deaths in September.

There is open-and-shut evidence all around us that many communities appear to care too little about mosquito control. As an example, I live on the rise on the way to Red Hills. I confess that, at times, one or two pesky mosquitoes annoy me in my bedroom, even though I go out of my way to ensure that there are no potential breeding sites in my yard. The neighbours buy into this approach.

I will drive 200 metres down the hill to a little beer joint/garage/tyre shop and the bar is literally swarming with mosquitoes. Just walking around and I can see metal and plastic containers with water. Do the people there care enough about the outbreak?

“No, man, is next door dem come from,” said a young lady about the dangerous pests while serving an acquaintance of mine white rum and Campari.

If Dr Tufton, a good Labourite and very active minister, is able to walk on water during this dengue outbreak, it will not be enough for our people. That is how it was for Dr Fenton Ferguson of the People’s National Party in the chik-V outbreak in 2014.

One sound bit of advice given by Dr Ford: “Stop fogging at random times. Mosquitoes roam at dusk. That’s when it should be done.”

Jamaican mothers owe it to their children to keep their surroundings free from breeding sites.

Mark Wignall is a political and public-affairs commentator. Email feedback to and