WHO combats chikungunya in Papua New Guinea

News release

WHO/S. Busin
WHO epidemiologist Boris Pavlin appearing on radio talkback show in Papua New Guinea to promote awareness of chikungunya and dengue.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with the Government of Papua New Guinea and other stakeholders to control an outbreak of chikungunya in the Pacific country.

"We must do more to put chikungunya back in its box," says WHO Representative in Papua New Guinea Dr William Adu-Krow. "It's bad enough that the country already struggles with isolated cases of dengue. The presence of another mosquito-borne viral disease is putting the welfare of many others at grave risk."

The symptoms of chikungunya include fever, severe joint pain, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. There is no cure, and treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms. The disease was first noticed in 1952 in Tanzania and is now endemic in parts of Africa and Asia.

WHO has supported the Papua New Guinea National Department of Health to develop and distribute fact sheets and other health materials about chikungunya and dengue, advising the public on appropriate care, on reducing the risk of mosquito bites and on eliminating mosquito breeding sites. It has also assisted health authorities to develop clinical management guidelines for distribution to all provinces.

WHO has funded an entomology study in Vanimo, the capital of Sandaun province, to determine which species of mosquito—Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus—is involved in the outbreak. WHO developed a diagnostic protocol for suspected chikungunya and dengue cases and procured dengue rapid tests.

A WHO epidemiologist and a technical officer have provided clinical management seminars in a variety of clinical settings and have appeared on radio and television to promote awareness of chikungunya and dengue. The diseases demand a joint response because of the similarities in their clinical presentation and the way they are spread.

A national task force has been formed, comprising key stakeholders such as the National Department of Health at Papua New Guinea, WHO, the National Agricultural Quarantine and Inspection Authority, PNG Ports Corporation, the national customs and immigrations services and others. The task force developed outbreak response plans and works with surveillance officers in all 20 provinces to increase vigilance for chikungunya and dengue.

The chikungunya outbreak was first detected in June 2012 in Vanimo. Since then, cases spread to East New Britain province, New Ireland, Morobe, Eastern Highlands, West New Britain, Madang, Chimbu, National Capital District, Jiwaka and Manus provinces. It is also suspected to have occurred in Oro and Southern Highlands provinces.

The first two cases in the capital of Port Moresby were confirmed on 17 April 2013 by the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research. Since then, hundreds of suspected cases have been detected in the Port Moresby area.

For further information, please contact:

Mr Steven Busin
Information and Communications Officer, WHO Representative Office in Papua New Guinea
Telephone: +675 7350 2107
E-mail: busins@wpro.who.int

Mr Ruel E. Serrano
Assistant, Public Information Office
Telephone: +632 528 8001
E-mail: serranor@wpro.who.int