Editorial comment – On the lookout for dengue

Picture: RNZ

So we have 1960 lab confirmed cases of dengue fever so far this year. That’s the word from the Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr James Fong.

The numbers are important for many reasons.

The good thing is that Dr Fong said case numbers were below the average numbers seen at present nationally. We are told the case numbers in the Western Division are now below the outbreak alert threshold and at the expected level seen at this time of the year, though a slight upward trend has been noted in the last week.

Dr Fong said 730 cases were recorded in the Western Division. That should be fair warning for us all though, the fact that there is a slight upward trend.

The challenge now is to suppress that and contain our numbers.

The ministry also recorded 116 lab-confirmed cases of typhoid fever with six deaths so far this year.

Interestingly, in May, 2020, the Northern Division recorded the highest number of dengue fever cases in Fiji. Perhaps we should fall back on a statement in February 2018 by the Ministry of Health.

It stated at the time, that there was no cure for dengue fever, which should be a wake-up call for us all.

The statement from the ministry said the treatment for dengue fever was known as “supportive treatment”.

This treatment helped to relieve the worst symptoms while the body’s immune system fought the virus. Now in saying this, the elimination of mosquito breeding places needs to become a routine activity for all of us.

Symptoms of dengue fever include: sudden onset of high fever with severe headache, pain behind the eyes/eye socket, joint pains, muscle pains, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, or skin rash.

Let’s consider this fair warning and work together to eliminate mosquitoes and get rid of their breeding grounds. Dengue Fever, a vector-borne viral infection transmitted by Aedes mosquitos, isn’t something we should take lightly.

According to the World Health Organization in January this year, the global incidence of dengue has grown dramatically with about half of the world’s population now at risk. Although an estimated 100-400 million infections occur each year, over 80 per cent are generally mild and asymptomatic.

It reiterates that there is no specific treatment for dengue/severe dengue.

However, early detection of disease progression associated with severe dengue, and access to proper medical care lowers fatality rates of severe dengue to below 1%. Figures matter, because they offer us a realistic view of the impact of such an illness in terms of geography, and would assist in heightening awareness and caution.

Symptoms last between five to seven days. While there is no vaccine for it, most people quickly recover with proper medical care.

Prevention is critical and must involve everyone. Let’s clean our compounds. Let’s empty containers, get rid of old tyres, drums and make sure pot-plants are not carrying stagnant water.

Let’s keep mosquito repellents handy.

We hope the authorities will take action on neighbours who are not complying with the need to keep their compounds clean and get rid of all mosquito breeding places.

Let’s fight dengue fever together.

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