Ministry steps up the fight on dengue

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is expanding its surveillance and awareness efforts to fight dengue into the provinces in anticipation of greater movement of people during the upcoming festive season and hence the spread of the Aedes mosquito-borne disease.

Under Secretary Health Improvement in the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Dr Christopher Becha told a press conference in Honiara yesterday that the ministry has taken this measure due to the increase in reported dengue cases.

“The current situation is that the dengue cases continue to be reported in Honiara, Guadalcanal, Malaita and Choiseul provinces and that lately one case has been reported in Isabel province.

The total number of reported dengue cases with the ministry now stands at 1, 718,” Dr Becha said.

Statistics at the sentinel and non-sentinel sites monitored by the Health Ministry puts the cases of dengue fever at 1409 cases in Honiara, 231 in Guadalcanal Province, 69 cases in Malaita Province, eight cases in Choiseul Province and one case in Isabel Province.

One infant has died since the outbreak was reported in mid-August, but so far, 51 infected persons hospitalised at the National Referral Hospital ((NRH) have been clinically cured and discharged.

“The Ministry has increased surveillance in order to gather much information as possible from clinics and hospitals about the spread of the disease.

“This gives us the maximum possible information which allows us to identify particular areas where there is a more serious risk of dengue.

“In Honiara, this includes the National Referral Hospital (NRH) and nine clinics of the Honiara City Council and private practitioners. Surveillance is also extended to the as well as surveillance on clinics in Guadalcanal.

“Furthermore in Honiara, the Vector Borne Disease Control Program (VBDP) has conducted extensive fogging areas in hotspots in west and east Honiara, especially in highly densely populated suburban communities.

“Honiara City Council and Guadalcanal Provincial Health Services have been conducting an extensive outreach campaign, visiting households and communities to inform them about the outbreak and what people should do to protect themselves,” Dr Becha said.

Dr Becha said a total of 181 National Hospital staff members have taken on extra duties as part of the dengue response roster with plans to recruit additional health workers including retired nurses, should the need arise.

“Casual workers have been recruited to ensure that proper hygiene and sanitation is maintained, despite the increased number of patients and visitors,” he said.

“While dengue is not endemic in Solomon Islands, reported cases of dengue have occurred in the past- in 1992 and 1994.”

He said now that the dengue cases have been reported in more places outside of Honiara, the challenge for the ministry is to contain the spread of the disease in the coming festive season as people will move from the city to their homes in the rural areas.

Dr Becha said while resources available to the ministry are scarce to undertake a blanket surveillance throughout the country, he is confident the spread of dengue can be controlled if people are informed about the outbreak and what they should do to protect themselves.

He said donors and stakeholders, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) are ready to assist should the situation become critical.

However, Dr Becha said based on the strategic response efforts the ministry has taken since the outbreak was reported 10 weeks ago, it (ministry) is confident that the number of reported cases will soon decline.

Source: PM Press Secretariat Office