Dengue Fever Surges in the Pacific

Dengue Fever Surges in the Pacific


Last June 29, 2017, Hanoi, Vietnam reported 500 people infected with dengue fever. In the Indian state of Kerala, at least 86 people have been recorded dead in July 2017. In Sri Lanka, there have been more than 100,000 cases and almost 300 dead. The same disease plagues Malaysia, New Caledonia, and other countries in the Pacific.


Dengue is a viral disease that affects tropical and subtropical places. It is transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquito and passed on to humans through bites. Humans infected by dengue become carriers of the disease. When an uninfected mosquito bites these carriers, they get the virus. In this process, the number of infected mosquitoes and human victims continually increase.


Type 2 Dengue Fever in the Pacific Islands

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) has been monitoring several countries in the Pacific. This includes Palau, New Caledonia, American Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, and French Polynesia. Dr. Salanieta Saketa, the deputy director of the SPC Public Health Division, says that the same type of dengue has been circulating these countries and more. They monitor each of them every week.


In a statement released by Saketa, she said that dengue type 2 has not been in circulation in the Pacific for about 20 years. Medical experts thought that people in the Pacific have finally developed immunity against it. However, recent records say otherwise. Locals and tourists are still susceptible to the disease.


The symptoms of dengue type 2 include fever, headache, vomiting, nausea, fatigue, pain in the eye area, skin rashes, and muscle pain. For now, the SPC continues to monitor countries where dengue type 2 is detected.


Tourists Warned Against Dengue

Eleven people have been recorded dead in New Caledonia so far in 2017 because of the mosquito-borne disease. Over 4000 people have been affected by it. These include tourists. New Zealand has been alarmed as more than 9000 Kiwis go to the island during the holidays every year.


The government of New Zealand warns their citizens about the sudden surge of dengue. Within six months, there are already 71 Kiwis who have contracted the disease.


Dr. Colin Tukuitonga of the SPC says that dengue type 1 is present in more countries in the Pacific. However, the immediate danger lies with dengue type 2. There’s no vaccine for the disease yet and the best preventive measure appears to be avoiding infected mosquitoes. The public is advised to keep their surroundings clean and drain stagnant water.


The Cause of the Sudden Surge of Disease

While there are no concrete findings yet, climate change is said to have been one of the major causes of dengue fever outbreaks. Studies show that climate change has brought hotter and wetter weather, thus creating an ideal home for disease-spreading pests like mosquitos.


It’s not yet clear whether or not the dengue fever problem in the Pacific will create a health crisis. The SPC needs to observe affected countries for a longer time to get definite conclusions. For the meantime, locals and tourists should be careful. Precautions like using mosquito-repellent lotion should be taken. If they experience symptoms of the disease, it’s best that they consult a doctor right away.

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