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Post-cyclone: Fiji public urged to clean up amid ‘LTDD’ warning

Tuesday 11 January 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Fiji, Regional

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Post-cyclone: Fiji public urged to clean up amid ‘LTDD’ warning
People are helped to get to safety by local police Photo: Fiji NDMO

Fiji's government has warned of a rise in diseases with the potential to prove deadlier than Tropical Cyclone Cody which hit the country on Monday.

The storm left one man dead and led to widespread flooding and thousands of people fleeing their homes.

Soldiers help clean up in the capital Suva.
Soldiers help clean up in the capital Suva. Photo: Supplied/Fiji govt

The clean-up is underway as the government assesses the full extent of the damage caused by Cody.

Fiji's Minister for Disaster Management Inia Seruiratu said while Covid-19 continues to grip the country, there's a need to stay alert of other deadly illnesses.

He said the government will launch a 'LTDD' campaign across the country to combat leptospirosis, typhoid, dengue and diarrhoea.

"The outbreak of communicable diseases are common in the aftermath of disasters such as cyclones and floods.

"To help prevent any major outbreak of contagious diseases, the ministry and health officials intend to raise awareness and educate the affected population."

Following Cyclone Ana in January 2021, Fiji's Health Ministry reported hundreds of cases of LTDD diseases across the country.

In December 2020, Cyclone Yasa had hit the country and before that was Tropical Cyclone Harold in April, 2020 - a month after Fiji recorded its first case of Covid-19.

Fiji's Ministry of Health recorded over 5400 cases of Leptospirosis, Typhoid, Dengue and Diarrhoea following Cyclones Yasa and Ana.

Minister for Health, Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete, said there were 1747 dengue fever cases with five deaths after Yasa and Ana.

He said there were also 99 cases of typhoid with one death.

Waqainabete said natural disasters increased the intensity of the diseases and highlighted there were 3019 cases of diarrhoeal disease following cyclones Yasa and Ana.

Leptospirosis is a blood infection disease caused by the bacteria Leptospira.

The signs and symptoms of the disease can range from none or mild - headaches, muscle pains, and fevers - to severe bleeding in the lungs or meningitis.

During a media conference in Suva on Monday, Inia Seruiratu said his ministry is positioning itself to combat the spread of such diseases.

Soldiers clear rubbish during the LTDD campaign.
Soldiers clear rubbish during the LTDD campaign. Photo: Supplied/Fiji govt

He emphasised the need to retain control of the diseases as the Health Ministry prepared for the Covid-19 booster vaccination rollout this year.

He said the ministry would send teams around the country to educate people on reducing their risk of getting leptospirosis and to seek treatment early.

The recent floods in the country have escalated the surge in these communicable diseases, Seruiratu said.

Since the first case of Covid-19 was reported on 19 March 2020, Fiji has had 57,849 coronavirus cases, with 51,629 recoveries and 714 deaths.

The Health Ministry has conducted 482,077 coronavirus tests since March 2020 with 521 carried out in the latest update on 10 January 2022.

The public is urged to do their part to eliminate LTDD diseases.

"We need to clean up our homes, clean up our compounds, clean up areas in our community that are possible breeding grounds for vectors, for pests and therefore for diseases," the ministry said.

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.. Photo: Facebook / NDMO

Leptospirosis could be caught when people did not cover and protect cuts or wounds on their hands and feet.

"Make sure you have good footwear, wear gumboots, wear gloves to avoid getting leptospirosis."

Typhoid and diarrhoea were, for the most part, food and water-borne, the ministry said.

"Ensure that all food is well cooked and are covered. People living in areas that suffered during the cyclone should boil all drinking water.

"Diarrhoea occurs when people eat food that is not cleaned properly and becomes contaminated. If you're suspicious about the food, it's best not to consume it and dispose of it."

When it came to dengue, the ministry said mosquitoes were the main problem.

"Dengue is caused by mosquitoes that live near and inside the homes.

Waivou Village in Rewa Province, Fiji was flooded for a week during floods in December 2016. A Fiji Red Cross team is seen here helping to assess the village's needs.
Waivou Village in Rewa Province, Fiji was flooded for a week during floods in December 2016. A Fiji Red Cross team is seen here helping to assess the village's needs. Photo: Fiji Red Cross

"Tin cans and containers lying around the house should be cleared as when water is collected in these receptacles, they become breeding grounds for mosquitoes," the Health Ministry said.

Meanwhile, the Fiji Red Cross Society is urging residents not to wade in floodwaters and to wear protective equipment when cleaning their compounds or fetching livestock.

The society's Disaster Management Coordinator, Maciu Nokelevu, said their findings in recent years had shown that cases of water-borne and communicable diseases were found following a cyclone.

He called on Fijians in affected areas to boil drinking water.

"The people of Fiji need to wear protective equipment like gumboots when walking in muddy areas because of the risk of Leptospirosis, water-borne diseases and dengue," Nokelevu said.

He said more than 20 volunteers are assisting families in flood-affected areas with rehabilitation and this included moving them safely to their respective homes.

The distribution of relief supplies will be carried out over the next few days, Nokelevu said.