The assurance comes amidst rumours of possible prosecution for those who aren’t complying with the Ministry of Health’s standards for cleaning potential mosquito breeding sites.Director of Community Health Services, Dr Neti Herman, says they have given people warnings for not cleaning their properties properly, but they are not prosecuting anyone.
“That is not our aim. We do not want to threaten people with prosecution, our goal is just for people to clean the island,” she says.
When Public Health identifies at-risk homes or breeding sites, they ask the owners of the properties to clean it, and then give them a certain date before inspectors return to check.
“If they haven’t done what we asked, then we will give them a warning. But most people have been compliant with us,” Herman says.
She says Public Health’s main concerns are the homes that belong to people who have migrated overseas and left their properties in a mess.
Herman says they are currently trying to find out who the families are and organise for someone to clean their vacant homes.
“If they still don’t clean it, we can’t prosecute anyone because they are all overseas,” Herman says.
What everyone has to keep in mind, Herman says, is that there has been a dengue outbreak in Samoa, and that the mosquito which transmits dengue is here in the Cook Islands.
“That is our concern, especially with the influx of people who are coming here for Te Maeva Nui.”
Herman says island residents have been very obliging this year, and generally seem to appreciate the warnings given to them.
In the past, she says, people often didn’t know when the Tutaka inspectors were going to visit their area, but this year Public Health changed the system, and informed people a week or two before the checks were due to start.
As for Chikungunya disease, which has affected hundreds of people on Rarotonga, Herman says that as of last week only 15 new cases have been reported
“So far we are very pleased with the update on Chikungunya.”
However, while new cases might be dropping, many island residents are finding that the disease can persist for a very long time.
Some report that their debilitating symptoms, which include arthritis-like joint pains, have lasted four months or more.