Three people have died of dengue fever in Fiji
Fiji's nurses and doctors have had leave cancelled as hospitals struggle to cope with a growing outbreak of dengue fever affecting thousands of people.
The Ministry of Health in Fiji says three people have died of dengue fever.
More than 2,500 people have so far tested positive to the mosquito-borne disease, with the majority of infections being recorded in the Suva area.
All nurses have had their pending annual leave cancelled indefinitely because of the outbreak.
Jenny Meyer reports.
The head of the Fiji Nursing Association Salaneta Matiavi says the Director of Nursing has announced extra nurses are needed to help hospitals cope with the outbreak.
SALANETA MATIAVI: And that is what is happening right now. All the nurses that are due for leave so that they are available for the patients or the clients that come in and they are needing help and assistance.
Salaneta Matiavi says the situation is an emergency and the nurses will be given their leave once the outbreak is over. The permanent secretary for the Ministry of Information, Sharon Smith Johns, says doctors and nurses have had their leave cancelled to make sure the hospitals are covered.
SHARON SMITH JOHNS: There have been situations where we have had a lot of people in the outpatient area. You know we've cleared them or you know the next day it seems to come in waves. So we have doctors that are like a locum doctor that can we can send into these areas, if we've got more people in one particular area we can get doctors out there to assist.
Sharon Smith Johns says most people infected with dengue have been from in and around Suva. She says dengue has not been seen in tourist areas but she warns travellers to use mosquito repellant. She says in a joint effort, councils in the Central Division and the Ministry of Health have stepped up insecticide spraying to tackle the epidemic. A lecturer in environmental health at Fiji's Medical School says the current dengue outbreak is similar to peaks seen in 2003 and 2008 and highlights the country's need for an insect specialist. Dr Amelia Turagabeci says a lot of work has gone in to limiting dengue but environmental officers need adequate resources and support.
AMELIA TURAGABECI: They need to be fully equipped, particularly with transportation. They need to actually go around and monitor those areas with laval sampling and all that. And currently they need to have an entomologist a full time entomologist within the Ministry of Health. Those are the findings from our latest study.
Dr Turagabeci says prevention is focused on hygiene, sanitary practices and waste management.
New Zealand's safe travel website has updated its message for visitors to Fiji advising tourists to use insect repellent, wear protective clothing, and stay in places where there are mosquito screens on windows and doors. The World Health Organisation estimates there may be 50-100 million dengue infections worldwide every year. It says dengue should be suspected when a fever over 40 degrees Celsius is accompanied by severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pains, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands or rash. Symptoms can last for a week after an incubation period of up to 10 days following an infected mosquito bite.
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