Health fights to contain mozzie virus

Thursday June 18, 2015 Written by Published in Health
Authorities in the Cook Islands are working together to ensure Rarotonga is a safe environment for the multitude of visitors coming for Te Maeva Nui in July. Authorities in the Cook Islands are working together to ensure Rarotonga is a safe environment for the multitude of visitors coming for Te Maeva Nui in July.

The Ministry of Health is battling to contain the Chikungunya mosquito virus before the influx of visitors to Rarotonga for the Te Maeva Nui celebrations in July.

 

The Public Health team has already sprayed hostels, schools and homes of those infected, with a biochemical agent meant to kill mosquitoes.

The next step is to stamp out as many mosquito breeding sites as possible through the Tutaka Programme.

The programme will see a team of health staff visit every home on the island to conduct inspections of the property for any breeding sites like water-filled gutters, tyres, plants and containers.

Anyone who fails the inspection will be met with a warning from Public Health to tidy up before a second visit, or face prosecution.

Director of Public Health Services, Neti Herman, says she is very concerned about the 5,000-plus people who will be visiting the island for the celebrations, and the risk their arrival poses in amplifying mosquito-borne disease cases.

Herman says the only way to control this is through the Tutaka Programme, by destroying the breeding and resting places of mosquitoes.

She is seeking support from government and non-government organisations to help with promoting the programme to ensure the island is clean.

“Hopefully our people will clean, not just to kill mosquitoes, but to keep our island clean and tidy – it is supposed to be a paradise,” Herman says.

Latest Chikungunya figures show a significant decrease in the number of cases being reported each week, with the total number of cases now sitting at 697 since October last year.

Herman says they are glad that Chikungunya cases are falling, and hope they will keep decreasing.

“But I am conscious of the number people coming here and that’s why we have already sprayed the hostels and many homes.”

Herman and her team will also be on the lookout for any dengue cases following reports of two deaths in American Samoa from dengue fever.

“This happened quite close by to us and dengue and Chikungunya are transmitted by the same mosquito and we have that mosquito here in the Cook Islands,” Herman says.

She says any chance of dengue returning to the Cook Islands is of high concern and show Public Health are aiming to put an information leaflet on dengue and Chikungunya in an edition of Cook Islands News within the next week.

Thanks to funding from the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, the Ministry of Health was able to print a number of leaflets informing the public when their villages will be inspected. It also printed brochures that will be available for visitors when they arrive at the airport.

Herman says they are doing all they can to get information out, but with no more money in Public Health’s budget for printing, it is hard to do. 

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