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
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.