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TARAWA, Kiribati (March 27, 1998 - Radio Australia/PACNEWS)---Officials in Kiribati have appealed to the public to destroy mosquito breeding grounds and use mosquito nets when sleeping in efforts to halt the spread of dengue fever.

The appeal comes after confirmation that blood samples sent from Kiribati for testing in Australia carried the dengue fever virus.

A Ministry of Health spokesman says the results show the disease has established a foothold in Kiribati and must be stopped from spreading.

A majority of those affected so far have been small children, the spokesman added.

Elsewhere in the Pacific, Fiji has reported over 20,000 dengue fever cases and 11 deaths from the mosquito-borne disease.

In Tonga, Minister of Health Dr. Siale 'Akau'ola says of 75 blood specimens tested, 15 confirm dengue fever. Another 45 blood samples have been sent to Tamavua Hospital in Fiji for analysis.

An average of 12 people a day with dengue fever symptoms now seek medical treatment at Nuku'alofa's Vaiola Hospital, said Dr. 'Akau'ola.

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