Clean up to stop dengue

Dengue was last confirmed in Solomon Islands in 2002, thus the patients diagnosed in late January 2013 signaled the beginning of a new dengue fever outbreak in Solomon Islands. As one component of the dengue outbreak response, the Ministry of Health launched an information campaign to raise awareness about prevention of this mosquito-borne disease.

Building on community knowledge

Because malaria is endemic in Solomon Islands, the population are aware of the threat of mosquito-borne diseases. This helped in the provision of dengue information, but there are also substantial differences between the two diseases that needed to be clearly communicated. For example, dengue and malaria are transmitted by different types of mosquitos that breed in different sites. While malaria mosquitos breed in streams, pools, and standing water, the dengue mosquitos breed in small and medium-sized containers filled with water (including plastic cups, rubbish, boats, equipment and water storage containers, etc). These dengue-breeding sites are found around homes and businesses in Honiara and therefore identifying and destroying these dengue breeding sites was a key message in the information campaign.

Getting the messages out

At the start of the outbreak, the Ministry of Health held a press conference to inform the public about the dengue fever outbreak. This was followed up by informative articles about dengue in the media for community awareness. Once the initial message was delivered, WHO worked with the Solomon Island health promotion team to refine the health messages for the communities. The team created and distributed dengue information leaflets which included information on how the public could protect themselves from the dengue mosquito.

Local partners Telekom and Be Mobile helped spread information about dengue through the use of SMS messages and Churches distributed information leaflets to patrons at their services, widening the population receiving dengue messages.

National Clean-up Day

The health promotion activities culminated in a National Clean-up Day – 'Iumi Tugeda Klin ap, Stopem Dengue' (you and me together, clean -up to stop dengue). Posters informed the public about the clean-up day and letters explaining the clean-up day were distributed to schools, businesses, NGOs, Government Ministries and Churches. The clean-up day, was a success, people cleaned- up anything and everything that could serve as a dengue mosquito breeding site. Rubbish was removed, boats filled with standing water were drained, water storage containers were covered - even upturned coconut shells were emptied!

The health promotion team continues to provide information for the public on dengue. Information leaflets for travellers arriving and leaving Solomon Islands are being distributed and information sheets on managing dengue at home are being distributed to patients visiting clinics who are not admitted.

Moving forward

As the initial phase of the outbreak is coming to an end, the health promotion team continues to provide information through partnerships with the media and Honiara City Council with particular focus on rubbish clean-up and early identification of dengue symptoms.

The Ministry of Health understands that this dengue fever outbreak will continue for many months. Everyone is working towards ensuring health staff and community members are equipped with the knowledge, skills and manpower to minimize the harm an outbreak could cause in the future.