Secretariat says dengue cases continue to rise
Secretariat of the Pacific Community discusses the threat mosquito borne diseases pose to region, including zika virus.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Community says the region is facing exceptional pressure from mosquito borne diseases.
The deputy director of the public health division, Dr Yvan Souares, says the number of cases of dengue is still growing in Fiji and about 2,000 people in Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia have chikungunya.
He told Jenny Meyer the most worrying is the zika virus which is also spread by mosquito, having infected close to 40,000 people in French Polynesia.
The SPC's Dr Yvan Souares says burden of the three current epidemics could easily overwhelm health services and the rainy season is not over yet.
YVAN SOUARES: We've observed an unusual number of outbreaks throughout the region. Eleven outbreaks of dengue, three outbreaks of chikungunya two outbreaks of zika in 13 months. That is unprecedented. However we were not caught by surprise because we're following global health very closely and monitoring what's going on.
Dr Yvan Souares says the SPC was expecting that sooner rather than later the Pacific would get the pressure from what has been happening in South East Asia, China and other parts of the world. The World Health Organisation is warning there may still be spikes in the number of cases of dengue fever in the Pacific this season, before the weather starts to cool in April. The head of Emerging Disease Surveillance and Response at WHO in Fiji says people with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, blood disorders, kidney or liver problems, are at higher risk of developing more severe dengue symptoms. Dr Eric Nilles says the ease of international travel is driving the spread of arboviruses like dengue, which is transmitted between people by mosquitos. He says the dengue season is characterised by hot, wet weather, and normally runs from December to April or May.
ERIC NILLES: There's the tail end of of a dengue outbreak in the Solomon Islands. There's still some dengue cases being reported in Micronesia, and again a tail end of an outbreak. And then there's a larger number of cases being reported in Kiribati, in French Polynesia, in New Caledonia, and Fiji and Vanuatu.
Dr Nilles says the surveillance network for dengue like diseases is robust, with 23 nations reporting case numbers on a weekly basis. The head of Public Health in Kiribati says he believes the dengue outbreak in Kiribati has finished for now despite some people still presenting with fever. Dr Peatao Tiira says more than one hundred cases of dengue appeared over December and January but tests on those with high temperatures now indicate a normal influenza type illness. He says the dengue strain detected this season was the same as that in French Polynesia and New Caledonia and he believes it started in Fiji. He says dengue is nothing new in Kiribati but it may return as it is raining again this week.
PEATAO TIIRA: We have the mosquito. It's only when someone who's got infected comes into the country, that's when the spread comes. So it's nothing that surprises us. We expected that. after the rain falls, we expect that. We prepare ourselves for dengue outbreak and all the other diseases related to rainfall.
Dr Tiira says no one has died from dengue in Kiribati and he keeps in contact with the WHO for advice on precautions and surveillance. An Australian Professor in tropical medicine and infectious diseases, James McCarthy, says there are some promising developments with dengue vaccine research.
JAMES MCCARTHY: There was a very big trial which was published last year which suggested that we will have a dengue vaccine but its nowhere near deployment. And always the issues with these tools is that someone's got to pay for their use in poor countries where the health system can't afford a vaccine that costs a hundred dollars for every person who gets it.
Professor James McCarthy of the University of Queensland says there's a strong possibility climate change will lead to higher prevalence of arboviruses in more temperate zones.
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