Health protection officer Charlie Ave said the empty homes and weed-ridden areas of land could harbour mosquito breeding sites, but were difficult to do anything about.
“The problem is that in most cases, the owners of the properties are off the island, so then we have to try and track down their relatives to get them to take action.”
With mosquito numbers rising due to the combination of warmer temperatures and occasional rain, the ministry is keen to prevent another outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases such as Chikungunya which reached near-epidemic proportions on Rarotonga last year.
New cases of the disease fell to zero in the latter part of this year, but the Ministry of Health is keeping a close eye on the situation in Samoa, where hundreds of cases of dengue fever have been reported this year. The disease has also had a major impact on American Samoa where several deaths from dengue have been reported this year.
A Ministry of Health spokesperson said visitor arrivals from Samoa would be closely monitored while there was any danger of the disease spreading to the Cook Islands.
Ave said while there were some concerns, it had mostly a case of “so far, so good,” for the Tutaka effort, with the owners of most properties heeding advice to keep their surroundings clean.
And Infrastructure Cook Islands staff have now joined with the Tutaka team in an effort to track down properties with water leakage problems.
“So far the ICI people have found seven leaking pipes. In some cases they can do a “quick fix,” but if the problems are more serious, they are referred back to ICI so repairs can be made,” Ave said.
With drought conditions still being predicted for the Cook Islands over summer, it was vital to track down leaks in an effort to conserve water supplies, he said.
“So far ICI have found seven leaking pipes. The smaller ones they were able to fix quickly with rubber, but the bigger ones will need more work.”
Representatives of the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation and Child Welfare are also accompanying the Tutaka team, checking on wider issues around the island.