10 Jul 2013

WHO urges more Pacific countries to get disease early warning system

5:42 pm on 10 July 2013

The World Health Organisation is urging all Pacific Island countries to use early warning systems for outbreaks of diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

A clear link is now confirmed between climate change and diseases sensitive to climate, including diarrhea, typhoid and leptospirosis.

An environmental health specialist says Fiji, Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands are using surveillance systems to help them prevent and contain disease outbreaks related to flooding, natural disasters and drought.

Dr Rohko Kim spoke to Annell Husband.

ROHKO KIM: For example, we know there will be increased diarrhoea after a certain period of drought, or after a certain period of heavy rain there will be also increased dengue and diarrhoea, as well. Also malaria, depending on the country situation. The ministries of health should not wait until those outbreaks happen. Already they should be prepared, using those climate sector variables the early warning systems and activate the surveillance programme. They could send more doctors to the affected area and try to detect those predicted outcomes at the earliest stage. And they prevent threat by mass education and campaign. Somehow, as I mentioned before, Fiji and the Solomon Islands, and also the Marshall Islands had less outbreaks than was expected, in a way.

ANNELL HUSBAND: Do the other countries not have that surveillance system, that early warning system?

RK: Right. Not all countries. At the moment the WHO has published a surveillance system called the Syndromic Surveillance System in all 22 Pacific Island countries and territories. But depending on the country, this surveillance is barely functioning or poorly functioning. And in terms of the early warning system related to climate sectors, at the moment the WHO is helping the Fiji government to build a system. We've finished this project until next year. And also other international agencies are helping other countries to use climate-based early warning systems to predict and make interventions against the possible outbreaks. So, yes, as for the early warning system, there are now many countries who are using it so far.