World Health Day 2014: Preventing vector-borne diseases

Joint press release WHO, Ministry of Health, Fiji

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health are celebrating World Health Day on 7 April 2014. This year’s theme is “Small bite, big threat”, highlighting the serious and increasing threat of vector-borne diseases - a timely reminder for us all as we experience a major dengue outbreak in Fiji. The outbreak since last December has affected over 20,000 people and has claimed 13 lives.

“The outbreak of Dengue in Fiji is a matter of serious concern to all of us. But the disease is preventable. Vector control, such as ongoing community clean-up campaign to get rid of mosquito breeding places in and around every household, is the most important tool to prevent dengue outbreak and save many lives.” Dr Liu Yunguo, WHO Representative of South Pacific, emphasized at the World Health Day Launching Ceremony.

“Dengue fever is considered an endemic disease in Fiji with 5 year outbreak cycles. In the absence of a vaccine to prevent the endemic and epidemic occurrences of dengue, individual and community efforts to control the density of the dengue-transmitting mosquito are a feasible and sustainable solution.” Dr Neil Sharma the Minister for Health commented during the World Health Day occasion.

What are vector-borne diseases?

Vectors are small organisms such as mosquitoes, bugs, and ticks that can carry disease from person to person and place to place. They can put our health at risk, at home and when we travel.

The vector-borne diseases present in Fiji include dengue and lymphatic filariasis, which causes elephantiasis and scrotal hydroceles. Both are transmitted by mosquitoes. Fiji is also at risk of importing chickungunya, Ross River Virus, Zika virus, and other vector-borne diseases including malaria.

World Health Day as a timely reminder of a current problem

This World Health Day provides a timely reminder to support the efforts of the Ministry of Health to control the ongoing transmission of dengue.

Dengue, a mosquito-borne viral infection, is currently the world’s fastest spreading vector-borne disease. The dengue mosquito lays its eggs on the walls of water-filled containers, and adult mosquitoes often rest in dark areas (e.g. under beds and behind curtains).

The current outbreak of dengue virus serotype 3, has re-emerged in the Pacific after nearly 20 years. Most cases have occurred in the Central Division but more cases are being identified in other areas including the Western Division, so the Ministry of Health urges all citizens to take precautions.

Expressing his concern on the current dengue fever outbreak, the Minister for Health Dr Neil Sharma mentioned that “the control of dengue and other arbovirus diseases should be seen as a daily activity by all nationals and visitors to the country. Everyone is a stakeholder in the fight against dengue and other arboviruses. The theme for World Health day this year reminds us of the burden that mosquitoes can impose on our society hence the need for everyone to be vigilant and participate in continuing the prevailing endeavour to sustainably control the mosquito density in our society.”

“Ministry of Health has made massive efforts to control the current outbreak, working together with other government sectors and health partners. An integrated vector management approach and sustainable national control programmes are needed to prevent dengue and other vector-borne diseases. Vector control programmes at all levels are encouraged, including community mobilization and support, village leadership, family and individual actions such as cleaning houses and gardens weekly to reduce mosquito breeding. WHO is committed to support the Ministry of Health in the containment of vector-borne diseases and improving the health of all people in Fiji.” Dr Liu said.

Precautions against mosquito bites:

  • Reduce mosquito breeding sites by clearing out rubbish from yards and emptying vessels of water including, tires, discarded drums, uncovered water storage containers, blocked gutters and upturned coconut shells.
  • Clean and empty the water containers once per week or where these cannot be emptied contact the local health authority for applying safe chemicals (e.g. abate).
  • Wear clothing that minimizes skin exposure during daylight hours when mosquitoes are most active (dengue mosquitoes bite during dawn and dusk).
  • Apply repellents to exposed skin.
  • Where indoor biting occurs, household insecticide aerosol products, mosquito coils or other insecticide vaporizers may also reduce biting activity.
  • Where feasible improve housing with mosquito proof wire mesh or sleep under mosquito nets to avoid night biting mosquitoes that transmit lymphatic filariasis.

The Minister for Health Dr Neil Sharma mentioned that “the fight against the scourge of dengue fever is primarily the fight against the dengue-transmitting mosquito. The responsibility lies with each individual, every family, villages, focus groups, corporate bodies and Governmental and Non-Governmental sectors in the country to ensure that the environment remains clear of mosquito breeding grounds”

“Vector control and disease elimination are everyone’s responsibility. Government, community groups, families and individuals have important roles to play by taking actions to protect yourself and others. On this world health day, let’s clean up our living and work places to prevent dengue and other vector-borne diseases,” concluded Dr Liu.

For more information, please contact

Helen J. Yu
Communications Officer
Direct: +679 323 4136
E-mail: yuji@wpro.who.int

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