Dengue outbreak causing resource and financial strains
WHO says the region-wide dengue outbreak is putting a strain on public health systems in resources and finances.
The World Health Organisation says the current Pacific-wide outbreak of dengue is causing health systems across the region to be strained in both resources and finances.
Its team leader for emerging diseases, Eric Nilles says dengue 3 has not been present in the Pacific for about 20 years, so a large proportion of the population is susceptible to it.
Dr Nilles says the outbreak is putting pressure on manpower, medicine availability and money - because of more fuel being needed, extra medicine being purchased and doctors being paid overtime.
He told Mary Baines some regions are coping better than others.
ERIC NILLES: What we're seeing currently is this re-emergence or reintroduction of this specific type of dengue, dengue serotype 3, that has not been in the Pacific for about 20 years. Because of this there is a large proportion of the population susceptible to this specific type of dengue and this has resulted in what we call a Pacific-wide outbreak of dengue. Certainly in Fiji, this is one of the largest dengue outbreaks recorded and certainly last year in the Solomon Islands the dengue 3 outbreak there was the largest outbreak recorded since the second World War. Why we are seeing very large outbreaks in some countries and smaller outbreaks in other countries is not completely clear, but that's one of the characteristics of dengue is that it can be quite difficult to really predict the trajectory of the outbreaks.
MARY BAINES: So what kind of pressure is this putting on the public health systems across the region?
EN: That's variable depending first on the size of the outbreak and second on the resources in the country or territory, and some of the territories, for example New Caledonia and French Polynesia, quite high-resource settings, are able to handle the outbreaks that they have been having with greater ease even though it has strained their resources. Countries like Fiji, certainly the health system was significantly strained. And although we may be seeing the peak of the outbreak now, and hopefully we will start to see a decrease, certainly there's been a substantial strain on the health system and on the available resources. The same situation, or potentially even worse, was in the Solomon Islands last year where the large outbreak in Honiara severely strained the available resources. So certainly these large dengue outbreaks have significant public health and financial impact on these small, fragile island states.
MB: And by resources, you mean manpower and medicine?
EN: That's right, manpower, medicine and the financial resources. So the cost of additional medicine, the cost of paying overtime, the cost of fuels for vehicles, all of these things that are required during a large outbreak, and strain the available capacities and the available resources. We have not heard any reports of running out of medicine, but again the surge capacity of these small island states is limited so it is possible if the outbreaks progress significantly.
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