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Epidemic has sickened 4,200 so far

NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (Oceania Flash, Mar. 26, 2009) - The mosquito-transmitted dengue fever has killed for the third time this year in New Caledonia, where authorities are struggling to combat an epidemic that has so far cause over 4,200 persons to be infected by the virus. The latest fatality is an elderly person from the North of the main island, local media report, quoting the Health and Social Affairs Department (DASS).

Health authorities are more alarmed than ever with the exponential rate of growth of the disease and at least one hundred new cases reported each day.

Another complicating factor was the current spell of rainy weather, which is boosting the proliferation of mosquito larvae in this hot and humid season.

Since the epidemic began in September last year, territorial health services, as well as those from the Provinces and the capital Nouméa, have stepped up their efforts in order to sensitize the population to the need to observe basic prevention rules against dengue fever.

These included ridding compounds and house surroundings from any recipients or old tires that could retain still waters (where mosquito larvae can fast develop), use personal insect repellents, as well as mosquito nets to avoid insect bites.

Teams are also regularly visiting residential areas in order to check on whether basic rules have been respected.

Dengue fever is transmitted by mosquitoes.

Its symptoms include fever, joint pains, and nausea.

If left untreated, the virus can lead to internal hemorrhage.

The epidemic currently prevailing in New Caledonia mainly concerns the serotype 4 of the virus, which had not been present in the French Pacific territory for at least thirty years, therefore making the population more vulnerable because it has not been exposed to this serotype and is not naturally immunized.

Previous dengue epidemics in New Caledonia were of the serotype 1.

In French Polynesia, health authorities are also worried at the increasing number of dengue cases reported to date: 76 since the beginning of this year.

The development of the disease has earlier this month prompted authorities to treat the current situation as a fully-fledged epidemic, mostly of type 4 there also.

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