Dengue epidemic hits New Caledonia | Pacific Beat

Dengue epidemic hits New Caledonia

Dengue epidemic hits New Caledonia

Updated 7 December 2012, 19:19 AEDT

Health authorities around the Pacific have started monitoring dengue fever outbreaks.

So far there has been cases reported in the Federated States of Micronesia and the Cook Islands.

But the fever is already at epidemic levels in New Caledonia with 127 cases of type-one recorded last month, and 34 cases so far this month.

Dr Yvan Souarès is an epidemiologist with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, based in New Caledonia, and he described the scale of the problem to Pacific Correspondent Campbell Cooney.

Presenter: Campbell Cooney

Speaker: Dr Yvan Souares, an epidemiologist with the SPC

SOUARES: We're just at the start of the epidemic which have been officially declared by the New Caledonian health authorities last week or earlier this week. And it's Dengue C O Type One for the virus and what isn't clear at the moment is that this epidemic is starting quite early in the season and earlier than any other year so far, so the prospects for an epidemic of some kind of moderate to high amplitude is contemplated, but that needs to be discussed, because there are also vectors that are not going in the same trend and would rather illustrate or predict an epidemic of a moderate amplitude.

In a dengue epidemic, like in many vector- born diseases, there are three aspects to consider, one is the population and that population may have been exposed to other dengue epidemics and other viruses, therefore part of them are immune and part of the population is not immune, considering the virus that is circulating. The second aspect is the vector, and that vector is the Aedes aegypti in New Caledonia, but it's always linked with the aedes species. So that vector is in itself or itself depending on environmental conditions, and especially temperature and precipitation.

COONEY: What's going on in New Caledonia to try and bring it under control? I suppose as you mentioned a little bit earlier than would have been expected, so I suppose there would be a feeling that it maybe taken health authorities a little bit by surprise?

SOUARES: No, no, and in fact that's not the case, because the surveillance system and the Dengue National Committee meets as early as October, so everything so far is say well managed and the public health measures are put in place correctly. The only worry by the epidemic starting earlier is a problem of resources. The resources could be stretched in a relative short time, and therefore they're now preparing for ordering more equipment, material, pesticides and all that.

COONEY: For the community, what in particular can they do to try and help control this epidemic?

SOURAES: Well, we need to control the vector, the mosquito and in that sense, you could think and one could think that there are technical and professional measures to control the vector and there are two. One is at the lavae stage and the other one is at the adult stage, so you want to kill the adults, that are transmitting the virus and you want to avoid having new breeds of adults and then you want to control the lavae.

In fact, the communities is involved in controlling the larvae by eliminating all breeding sites, if possible, in their own environment, ie eliminating everything that could be a small breeding site, like a coconut shell, like all the wrecks and where the rainwater cleaning the gutters and the buckets, and all that sort of small breeding sites.

COONEY: That's New Caledonia. Are you getting any other reports of concerns or epidemics sort of levels in other nations around the region as well?

SOURES: Yeah, at this point in time, there are two places where dengue transmission is either confirmed, like in Koshi, in Federated States of Micronesia, where dengue epidemic of Type Four is going on for the past couple of months, with approximately a little bit under 500 cases, no deaths and 154 hospitalisations so far. And then there is an alert that has been announced in Solomon Islands due to the exportation of one case of confirmed dengue to the Cook Islands and that person had no exposure to dengue virus, except they stay in Solomon Islands for six months, so we have contacted the authorities in Solomon Islands and we've helped them to put together their dengue plan for responding to that situation, investigating the cases and taking all the public health measures. Notably the one we were discussing about launching through radio and other medias, public campaign for eliminating breeding sites in the community.

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