Dengue ‘under control’, government says

Thursday 20 May 2021 | Written by Emmanuel Samoglou | Published in Health, National

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Dengue ‘under control’, government says
A Matavera Puna team during a dengue clean-up campaign and dengue spraying late last year. Photo: MATAVERA PUNA/21020310

Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health says dengue is being brought under control in Rarotonga, yet questions remain over the ministry’s handling of the ongoing outbreak.

Government says its most recent data shows dengue is getting under control, but it has stopped short of declaring an end to the outbreak.

Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health (TMO) said the number of probable cases has been declining since mid-April, with seven cases recorded for the second week of May, compared with 12 in mid-April and a peak of 24 probable cases in February.

According to TMO data released earlier this month, there have been 343 confirmed, suspected and probable cases of type-2 dengue in the Cook Islands as of May 4.

The outbreak has resulted in at least 38 hospitalisations.

TMO did not respond to a request by Cook Islands News yesterday for more recent statistics by the time this story went to press.

During the outbreak, which was formally declared in early February, almost all cases have been in Rarotonga, with one probable case on each of Aitutaki, Mangaia and Mauke.

Probable cases are defined by TMO as having tested positive for the NS1 non-structural protein of the dengue virus.

In order for a case to be confirmed however, blood samples must be sent to New Zealand for further analysis. It is understood the most recent testing carried out in NZ occurred during the first two weeks of April.

Of particular concern during the current outbreak has been incidences of negative test results for dengue by some residents, despite those residents becoming ill and exhibiting many of the telltale symptoms of the virus.

Earlier this month, TMO requested the support of the World Health Organisation to assist with its investigation into the matter.

In a statement yesterday, Secretary of Health Bob Williams said no new virus has been identified as being present in the country, and only type-2 dengue has been detected thus far.

Tests carried out in early April have ruled out the presence of Zika or Chikungunya – both mosquito-borne viruses, TMO said.

It is not known how many people have tested negative for dengue despite exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

Williams said TMO staff and the general public have been working together to bring the outbreak under control.

“Our tutaka household and property inspections have been ongoing this month and the results have been good, as most people seem to be doing what they can to reduce mosquito breeding sites on their properties,” he said.

Once a case is confirmed as positive, TMO typically sends out a team to spray the residence where the sick individual resides, targeting mosquito breeding areas.

But several residents who have tested negative despite falling ill with dengue-like symptoms told Cook Islands News their properties have not been sprayed.

Members of the public and the political opposition have criticised TMO’s response to the outbreak.

“Our people need to be reassured that TMO is on top of this and is doing all it can to determine exactly what illness our people are suffering from,” said Titikaveka MP Selina Napa earlier this month.

“TMO has a duty to be absolutely transparent at all times,” she said.