Frequently asked questions: dengue in the Pacific

As of 7 April 2014

Q: What’s the current situation about dengue outbreak in Fiji?

A: To date, over 20,000 clinically suspected dengue cases have been reported and 13 deaths have been confirmed in Fiji since December 2013, due to the re-emergence of the dengue virus serotype 3 after nearly 20 years. WHO is closely monitoring the situation and working closely with the Ministry of Health and other partners to prevent and control dengue outbreak. A decline in new cases reported per day has been noted since end of March. This is probably due to a combination of factors including cooler weather, a decreasing proportion of the population susceptible to the dengue virus, and the control measures taken.

Q: What’s the current situation in other Pacific Islands?

A: Dengue serotype 3 outbreaks have started in Kiribati, French Polynesia and New Caledonia since end of 2013. Now the number of dengue cases reported is decreasing or low and WHO is continuing to monitor closely. The number of new cases in Vanuatu has plateaued and as of 25 March there were a total of 1440 cases and 2 reported deaths. A modest increase in dengue cases in the Solomon Islands has been reported with more than 50 suspected cases since last November, and surveillance and public health measures have been strengthened.

In French Polynesia, New Caledonia and the Cook Islands, a Zika outbreak has been confirmed and ongoing, with more than 400 cases in New Caledonia since end of 2013 and 600 cases in Cook Island reported since March 2014. The epidemic in French Polynesia seems to have entered a phase of decline while the number of cases in New Caledonia and the Cook Island is expected to increase.

Q: What are dengue, chikunguna and zika? What are the differences?

A: Dengue, chikungunya, zika are mosquito-borne viral diseases transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus mosquitoes. They are not transmitted directly from person-to-person. There is no vaccine for them. The proximity of mosquito breeding sites to human habitation is a significant risk factor for them.

They are febrile illness with arthralgia and/or rash. Dengue causes classic dengue fever, also severe dengue . Chikungunya is characterized by severe, sometimes persistent, joint pain (arthritis), as well as fever and rash. Zika causes mild self-limiting symptoms of low-grade fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and body aches, and headache. Hospitalizations and fatalities are more common in dengue. No fatalities from chikungunya or zika have been reported.

Q: Will dengue and other mosquito-borne virus continue to spread in Fiji and other Pacific Islands?

A: Ministries in affected countries and territories continue to take effective surveillance and control measures. In Fiji, the number of new cases appears to be decreasing since end of March, due to cold weather, a decreasing proportion of the population susceptible to the dengue virus, and active vector control measures taken such as national clean-up campaign. WHO is collaborating local health authorities and takes dengue and other mosquito-borne virus seriously and is monitoring them closely. The risk of spread of mosquito-borne diseases in Fiji will be there in the future and therefore it is important to focus on long term preventive measures.

Q: How can infection with dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases be prevented?

A: at present, the only method to control or prevent the transmission of dengue virus is to combat vector mosquitoes through:

  • preventing mosquitoes from accessing egg-laying habitats by environmental management and modification;
  • disposing of solid waste properly and removing artificial and natural water containers;
  • covering, emptying and cleaning of domestic water storage containers on a weekly basis;
  • applying appropriate insecticides to water storage outdoor containers;
  • use of personal and household protection such as wearing long-sleeved clothes, installation of mosquito proof window screens, use of insecticide treated materials, coils and vaporizers;
  • improving community participation and mobilization for sustained vector control;
  • applying insecticides as space spraying during outbreaks as one of the emergency vector control measures;
  • and active monitoring and surveillance of vectors should be carried out to determine effectiveness of control interventions.

Q: Is it safe to travel to Fiji and other Pacific Islands?

A: WHO does not recommend any travel restrictions with respect to dengue outbreak in Fiji and other Pacific Islands. Given the current situation, vigilance is needed. Travelers should be advised to take precautions to protect themselves and their families, including

  • Avoid mosquito bites all the time.
  • Wear light-colored, long sleeved shirts and trousers, and cover footwear during early morning (6-9am) and early evening (5-8pm) when dengue mosquitoes bite.
  • Use repellent and frequently reapplying repellants as protection reduces over a short time.
  • Get rid of stagnant water from places where mosquitoes breed, such as in old containers, flower pots and used tyres.
  • See a doctor if you develop any of these symptoms: rash, muscle and joint pain, headache, eye ache, vomiting, stomach ache

Q: What has the local health authority done to prevent and control dengue outbreak?

A: Surveillance and public health response measures have been strengthened in affected countries and territories. For example, in Fiji and Solomon Islands, the National Dengue Taskforce has been activated and the surveillance unit, vector control unit and laboratory services are alerted. They are responding quickly. The Ministry of Health in Fiji has issued a National Dengue Action Plan with focus on strengthening dengue surveillance, dengue clinical management, dengue laboratory reporting and management, strengthen public health response, coordination and logistics for outbreak and improve communication. The Fijian government has embarked on a massive health clean-up campaign, lasting four weeks in March, to combat the outbreak of dengue fever in the country.

Q: What role is WHO playing in the response?

A: WHO responds to dengue in the following ways:

  • closely monitoring the situation and conducts continuing public health risk assessments.
  • supporting Pacific Islands countries and territories in the confirmation of outbreaks through its collaborating network of laboratories;
  • providing technical support and guidance to countries for the effective management of dengue outbreaks; in Fiji this means:
    • Providing rapid testing kits
    • Refreshing the skills of clinicians to diagnose dengue
    • Assessing hospital surge capacity to handle in influx of patients
    • Providing epidemiological support to analyze the situation.
  • supporting countries to improve their reporting systems and capture the true burden of the disease;
  • providing training on clinical management, diagnosis and vector control;
  • formulating evidence-based strategies and policies;
  • providing capacity building support on risk communications.
  • supplying diagnostic kits and vector control materials to fill any identified gap

For more information, please contact

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

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