Call for united Pacific regional effort against dengue

12:40 pm on 13 October 2016

Papua New Guinea's Health Minister has urged the Asia-Pacific region to work together to counter outbreaks of viruses such as dengue.

The Asian tiger mosquito is one of the vectors responsible for transmitting dengue fever.

The Asian tiger mosquito is one of the vectors responsible for transmitting dengue fever. Photo: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Speaking at a World Health Organisation conference for the Western Pacific in Manila, Michael Malabag said that a dengue outbreak in PNG earlier this year is now under control.

But Mr Malabag said dengue has been reported in many Pacific Island countries over the years and outbreaks continue to be a major public health concern.

The Post Courier reported him saying dengue virus could not be considered in isolation from other mosquito-borne diseases in the Pacific.

He said the most pressing outbreak-prone diseases in the Pacific were dengue, chikungunya, and Zika, which co-exist and co-circulate in the region.

Data from the Pacific Syndromic Surveillance System, 2014-2015, detected 32 arboviral disease outbreaks, including over 99,000 clinically compatible cases of chikungunya, almost 34,000 cases of dengue and almost 11,500 cases of Zika virus.

According to Mr Malabag, Arbovirus disease outbreaks have significant health and socio-economic impacts in the Pacific, including preventable mortality from dengue, and the risk of Guillain Barre Syndrome, microcephaly, and other congenital cerebral abnormalities from Zika.

The expense of sample shipping and testing overseas is another area of significant cost.

He said countries of the Pacific region are watching with interest the development of novel vector control strategies such as the use of wolbachia (a genus of bacteria which infects arthropod species like mosquitos) under the auspices of the global elimination dengue research programme.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs