Bold goal: Eradicate dengue in two weeks

Monday April 20, 2020 Written by Published in Health
Puna volunteers picked up more than 465kg of rubbish in Tupapa alone. 20040709 Puna volunteers picked up more than 465kg of rubbish in Tupapa alone. 20040709

The country’s health bosses have been set an aggressive challenge to wipe out dengue by the end of the month.

It was by force of necessity that Te Marae Ora moved the country’s healthcare out of town and into village clinics – but locals have welcomed the change.

Secretary of Health Dr Josephine Herman says the puna model, with nurses based in 10 halls around Rarotonga, as well as in the outer islands, has been successful.

The feedback from our people is they’re really happy with seeing the doctors, the nurses, closer to home.

“And I must say, the best health system in the world is the one that gives the power and control to the people,” Dr Herman said.

“We’re hoping that Covid-19 had been the catalyst for us to reset our health system. We’ve talked about this for a number of years since I came in, and it’s happening now.”

She said they now want to make the new decentralised model more permanent – and that means finding new buildings for village clinics. “As you know some of these punas are sitting in halls, and those halls need to be returned to their communities.”

They intend to use that new local health provision model to take on the sleeping giant of health problems: dengue.

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Dengue is a viral infection that causes a flu-like illness that sometimes develops into severe illness. It is carried by female Aedes Egyptii mosquitoes, that bite in the daytime. It starts with fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and pain behind the eyes – and can get rapidly worse.

Early detection and proper medical care can lower fatality rates to below one per cent. There have been 242 cases since the Cook Islands outbreak began in January last year but there have been no deaths.

Through Operation Namu, public servants and puna volunteers have worked systematically through the villages, getting rid of junk, cleaning up wet areas and trimming back grass and foliage. They collected at least 355 large bags of rubbish. Huge amounts of plastic, tins and bottles were sent to landfills, along with tyres, old appliances, syringes and car batteries.

Te Marae Ora staff have been grabbing every opportunity between rainstorms to spray the perimeters of schools and homes with pesticides – tactics successful in beating zika and chikungunya in 2015.

Dr Tereapii Uka has taken charge of the puna system and the response to Covid-19 locally, while Dr Herman is in New Zealand for the next two to four weeks. But she said she’d be in close contact with her team.

4 comments

  • Comment Link Tekura Monday, 20 April 2020 15:19 posted by Tekura

    I went for a months holiday in March and got infected with the dengue fever which I had to cut my holiday short. It is a crippling sickness to experience and it's TRUE only panadol can fix it. I took my antibiotics which didn't do anything.
    It is really good to hear that something is being done about it now. Keep it an ongoing health and safety program.
    Your doing a good job Cook lslands.

  • Comment Link Tekura Monday, 20 April 2020 15:19 posted by Tekura

    I went for a months holiday in March and got infected with the dengue fever which I had to cut my holiday short. It is a crippling sickness to experience and it's TRUE only panadol can fix it. I took my antibiotics which didn't do anything.
    It is really good to hear that something is being done about it now. Keep it an ongoing health and safety program.
    Your doing a good job Cook lslands.

  • Comment Link Bob Kimiangatau Monday, 20 April 2020 13:29 posted by Bob Kimiangatau

    Well done, an excellent initiative. Things get better when services are readily accessible especially for the elderly. When medical staff are in close proximity, response times are quicker and pressure on the Hospital is minimal. Keep up the good work TMO.

  • Comment Link Debi Monday, 20 April 2020 12:55 posted by Debi

    Awesome model - this is how the Cook Islands became the only country in the world to eradicate TB as well - under Dr Ellison and Dr Davis.. clearly working with villages has so many advantages!

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