GIS - 16 December, 2013: A plan for the prevention and control of chikungunya, dengue and malaria is critical for Mauritius because our island is vulnerable to outbreaks of the above mentioned diseases.
This statement was made this morning by the Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Mr Lormus Bundhoo, during a press conference on vector-borne diseases held in Port Louis. He recalled that the vector mosquito that can transmit both chikungunya and dengue is present in Mauritius as well as the mosquito that transmits malaria. Moreover, once introduced in a country, dengue is very difficult to eradicate and tends to recur periodically. Hence the need be vigilant and to take all precautionary measures so as to prevent the proliferation of vector-borne diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, he said.
Other reasons why Mauritius is vulnerable to these diseases include: extensive travel and trade links of Mauritius to dengue, chikungunya and malaria endemic zones; high number of high risk environmental pockets favouring breeding of mosquitoes; and lack of immunity in the population which increases the risks of outbreaks.
Minister Bundhoo pointed out that with regard to chikungunya, Mauritius is still prone to future outbreaks since some 30% of the population had developed the diseases during the past epidemics of chikungunya. As for dengue, the majority of the population is also susceptible to infection since very few people or none are totally immune to the disease.
He called for extreme vigilance since summer months are associated with an increase in mosquito population. “Recently the country has witnessed localized heavy downpours thus resulting in accumulation of water which will lead to increase in breeding places, while overgrown vegetation can serve as mosquito harboring places”, said the Minister.
Statistics reveal that some 17 cases of dengue fever during the period September 2013 to 13 December 2013 have been detected among Mauritian passengers arriving from Delhi. Furthermore, 46 imported cases of malaria have been detected since the beginning of the year and no case of chikungunya has been reported.
Several measures have been put in place by the Ministry for the control and prevention of the diseases. As regards disease surveillance, case detection starts at the port of entry. Passengers coming from endemic regions are screened by health inspectors and the thermal scanner at the airport. These passengers are thereafter followed up at their place of residence. Suspected cases are further screened by Health Surveillance Officers using the blotting paper technique. Since January 2013, 2 115 samples have been tested for both chikungunya and dengue amounting to 10 733 tests carried out.
Vector control activities include survey of mosquito breeding sites such as peri-domestic areas and flood prone areas, as well as larcividing which is carried out all over the island throughout the year. Fogging and spraying activities are also undertaken whenever required. Vector surveillance is carried out by the Vector Biology and Control Division with a view to following the trend of mosquito population density. Mosquitoes are also caught and sent to the laboratory for detection of viruses and other micro organisms. In 2013, mosquitoes from 415 localities around Mauritius have been tested for chikungunya and dengue. Ongoing sensitization and awareness campaigns through media and at community level are also undertaken.
To discuss about the current situation, measures taken and the way forward, an intersectoral meeting under the chairmanship of the Health Minister was held this morning. All stakeholders, namely the Ministry of Local Government, Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security, Ministry of Tourism and Leisure, l’Association des Hoteliers et Restaurateurs de l’île Maurice, World Health Organisation, the police, private clinics and private sector operators, have been called upon to reinforce the surveillance system put in place as regards vector control activities.
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