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Country dealing with its own epidemic

SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, Nov. 13, 2008) – Inbound international passengers coming from such neighbouring countries as Fiji are now been screened for possible dengue fever symptoms upon arrival at New Caledonia's La Tontouta airport

The key tool used by local health services is a state of the art heat-sensitive camera filming all passengers, with a special focus on flights coming from neighbouring countries currently affected by type 4 dengue fever epidemics, especially Fiji, where over 2,100 cases have so far been reported.

New Caledonia is currently facing a dengue type 1 epidemic, with over 1,000 cases reported.

The heat-sensitive camera, based on infrared technology, is monitoring all passengers in order to determine unusually high body temperature.

When the remotely detected temperature exceeds 37.5 degrees Celsius, the arriving passenger, regardless on whether he is a local resident of a visiting foreigner, is then approached by health agents.

He is then asked to fill in a form that will provide for a free dengue blood test at the local Pasteur medical institute.

Another copy of the same form is also simultaneously transmitted to the suspected passenger's place of residence, where local authorities are then asked to activate a targeted insecticide spraying campaign.

The targeted spraying is also known as "perifocal" tactics.

New Caledonia has stepped up its surveillance and awareness system, because an outbreak of the type 4 dengue fever, combined with the current type 1 already prevalent in the French Pacific territory, would have a disastrous impact.

While the serotype 1 dengue has been present in New Caledonia for the past few years, the type 4 has not been seen for many years.

This makes persons exposed more vulnerable.

New Caledonia has also stepped up its awareness campaign, in order to reinforce its message to the population.

While earlier media and television spots were stressing the need to clean up all potential mosquito breeding sites (still waters contained in old pots, tyres, gutters, bushy areas in compounds), to use mosquito nets, personal repellents and wear long sleeves, the new message is banking on the fear factor.

Since last week, viewers can see a person die of dengue fever in hospital, surrounded by powerless doctors.

The final message is:"Dengue too can kill you".

In French Polynesia, health authorities have also been placed on high alert, for the same reasons.

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