We need to fight dengue together

Editorial, Normal

The National, Thursday April 21st, 2016

 A  FEW days after news of the dengue outbreak in the National Capital District broke out, the city’s public hospital gave a reassurance and some general information on the nature of the disease and how it could be controlled from spreading further.

Port Moresby General Hospital chief executive officer Grant Muddle earlier this month took out a media statement to assure the public that dengue should not create widespread panic in the city and country. 

Muddle said then in a statement that dengue has been around for many years and PMGH was prepared to manage the attending cases. 

At the time when the hospital CEO issued that statement, 12 cases had been reported with two confirmed deaths’ due to the disease.

He also said that the hospital has seen an increase in reported case and further advised that as there was no vaccine for the disease, the best available option was prevention – eliminating the possibility of the disease spreading by the mosquito which is the host of the dengue virus.  

There has been widespread concern about the potential outbreak of dengue fever in the city.  

The Port Moresby General Hospital and all other public health facilities in the city have very limited facilities available for the treatment of dengue.

Since that statement from the Port Moresby General Hospital, the privately-run Pacific International Hospital has also reported a rapid increase in the number of dengue cases.

The number of cases reported at that facility has rapidly risen from three in January to over 300 by mid April.  According to the CEO of PIH, around half the number of patients currently admitted there are dengue-afflicted. Fortunately there have been no deaths related to the disease.

However, the rapid increase in the number of dengue cases over the past three of four months is certainly cause for concern by the public.  It should be a cause for concern also for the public health officials in the city and the national department/ministry responsible.

In cases like these, the public health officials like the National Capital District Health Services and to an extent the national Department of Health and the national minister responsible, are expected to be at the forefront in combating and controlling disease outbreaks.

More so they are expected to be seen to be doing something rather than quietly battling on while expecting the public to be assured that all is under control.

This seems to be the case at the moment.  While we appreciate what has been done, in this case the public education message so far by the Port Moresby General Hospital, more is expect of the Department and Ministry of Health.

There has not been a word on the dengue outbreak from the minister responsible and one wonders if he has been amply briefed on the matter.  Must he wait for the disease outbreak to reach epidemic proportions for him to react? One might ask:  What does the public expect from the minister or department apart from what has already been done?

Certainly, an acknowledgement of the crisis at hand would be a good start.  Again, the health officials including the minister himself have to be seen to be doing something.  

That is the least the public wants to see or hear.  

The public’s concern has also been voiced by the Governor of National Capital District Powes Parkop whose biggest worry is that the country’s disease control systems have failed to prevent the dengue virus from spreading.  

The governor has directed the NCD Health Services to continue fogging the city which has started in some parts of the city.  

Apart from what public health officials can do, the spread of the dengue virus is best controlled by an educated public who must cooperate to eliminate the source of the disease.  

More public awareness and a general cleaning up drive throughout the city could also assist in the municipal authority’s efforts in curbing the spread of the virus. 

The mosquito is a daytime biter and thrives around human activity. The risk of the virus spreading is greatest in urban areas, like Port Moresby. 

The best prevention is to reduce mosquito habitats in areas where dengue fever is common. 

The virus and the disease cannot be wished away; the Port Moresby public and NCD health need to cooperate to eliminate it.