The Ministry of Health and Quality of Life has introduced a new protocol for testing the population as well as incoming passengers showing signs and symptoms of infections caused by arboviruses such as chikungunya and dengue from endemic regions such as the Indian subcontinent, part of Africa or even European countries where these infectious agents are present.
This announcement was made this morning by the Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Mr Lormus Bundhoo, in Port Louis during a press conference on vector-borne diseases. He pointed out that the new protocol makes use of the blotting paper technique where blood samples are collected on a special protein saver card from finger pricks. These cards are then sent to the Central Health Laboratory where analysis is carried out on the same day.
“This new protocol ensures that infected individuals are diagnosed faster and taken care of without undue delay. Around 150 Health surveillance officers in different Health offices have already been trained on this new protocol”, Mr Bundhoo said.
Earlier, the Minister had a meeting with members of the Task Force on vector-borne diseases during which the current situation and measures taken by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life were discussed and the way forward was outlined. The Task Force comprises officials from several ministries as well as representatives of the private sector.
The Minister pointed out that a plan for the prevention and control of chikungunya, dengue and malaria is critical given that Mauritius is vulnerable to outbreaks. With regard to chikungunya, Mr Bundhoo cautioned that the country is still prone to future outbreaks since 30% of the population had developed the disease during the past epidemics, while the remaining 70% of the population which have not been affected are at risk. “Once we get infected by chikungunya and dengue, it is impossible to eradicate the diseases completely and hence there is need for vigilance”, he said.
The two main pillars of prevention and control programme for mosquito-borne diseases are disease surveillance and vector control. As regards disease surveillance, it is being reinforced through active case detection. Surveillance of incoming passengers has been reinforced. From January to October 2012, a total of 214 470 incoming passengers have been visited for malaria; 219 749 for chikungunya and 278 788 for surveillance purpose.
The Ministry of Health and Quality of Life has adopted the Integrated Vector Management strategy. Strategic orientations for mosquito control include: environmental interventions for eliminating breeding places; use of chemicals; intersectoral collaboration; use of protective materials including bed nets, health education and awareness campaigns; capacity building; community participation; enactment and enforcement of new legislation; and vector surveillance.
Speaking on the effective and lasting control of mosquitoes, Mr Bundhoo pointed out that a multisectoral approach including the participation of the community is needed. He said that social mobilisation and communication are the key components for sustainable prevention and control of mosquito-borne diseases.
As regards law enforcement, the Minister is of opinion that legislation is necessary to ensure full compliance on the part of the public with regard to the outbreak control measures in the context of social mobilisation. As at mid-December 2012, 2 670 notices were served, 2 644 were complied with and 13 contraventions were established. Statistics show that one indigenous case of chikungunya and 13 imported cases of dengue have been detected as at 21st December 2012. A total of 917709 premises were visited and treated with insecticides used for larcividing.
The Minister made an appeal to the population to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites when staying in risk areas, to be aware of chikungunya symptoms and to prevent water gathering in open containers especially in the vicinity of each house.
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