Improve dengue prevention measures, Opposition MP says

Thursday 18 February 2021 | Written by Emmanuel Samoglou | Published in Health, National

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Improve dengue prevention measures, Opposition MP says
Matavera Puna team during a dengue clean-up campaign and dengue spraying late last year. Photo: MATAVERA PUNA/21020310

As dengue fever continues to spread around Rarotonga, one Member of Parliament says the government needs to step up efforts to prevent outbreaks to protect public health.

According to the latest numbers provided by Te Marae Ora (TMO) Ministry of Health, the number of confirmed cases of the more concerning type 2 of the virus remains at 14, as reported during the weekend.

However, probable cases have increased from 17 to 23 and there are now 59 suspected cases, which indicates the virus could be spreading rapidly. At least 12 cases have been admitted to hospital.

In response to the surge in infections, government along with community members carried out an island-wide clean-up effort last week called Operation Namu21 that targeted mosquito breeding sites.

And this week public health officials kicked off a mass pesticide spraying campaign beginning in Ooa, Kiikii, Pue, Tupapa, and Maraerenga, however periodic rainfall has hampered those efforts.

As of last weekend, more than half of the confirmed and probable cases were in Titikaveka and Ngatangiia.

Titikaveka Member of Parliament Selina Napa was out with community members in her constituency during last week’s Operation Namu21 clean-up efforts.

Although she says she’s supportive of efforts to halt the current outbreak, she said more needs to be done to prevent them.

“I have a real concern with the dengue outbreak,” she said. “It seems we only react when the dengue numbers increase.”

Tutaka inspections and clean-ups such as Operation Namu21 need to be held more regularly she says, along with greater community education and awareness efforts led by TMO.

“To be honest, the ministry of Health needs to set up a team dedicated to focusing on dengue, part of the job being education and awareness using the media, the churches, the schools, NGOs and so forth to promote the message,” she said.

Also of particular concern for Napa is the number of broken down vehicles scattered around the island which have been known to be prolific breeding sites for mosquitos.

The issue was also highlighted by local environmental group Te Ipukarea Society last month, which warned the discarded vehicles were exacerbating the outbreak.

With the current outbreak dominated by the more severe type-2 of the virus, Napa said residents need to be more proactive in halting the spreading of dengue by staying at home if feeling ill, and isolating themselves from the general population.

“People suffering from dengue can spread the illness if mosquitos bite them and then other people,” she said. “Not enough of our people realise this.”

Studies carried out in the past have indicated type 2 dengue can have more severe effects among the four variants - or serotypes - of the virus, and lead to hospitalisation.

Weather permitting, spraying is expected to continue this week covering town and Nikao. Next week, officials will target Arorangi, Vaimaanga, Ngatangiia, and Matavera.

A 20-month long outbreak of the virus was declared over last November by health officials after 380 probable or confirmed cases were reported across the Cook Islands, including six in Aitutaki and five in Pukapuka. 

The World Health Organization estimates that out of 50-100 million cases of the virus, 500,000 cases develop into dengue haemorrhagic fever and the more severe dengue shock syndrome, and more than 20,000 deaths occur each year.

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