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Dengue, filariasis among diseases targeted

By Patrick Antoine Decloitre

SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, Sept. 29, 2010) – A team of New Caledonia-based specialists was in Fiji last week to train local staff from the environmental health department to better monitor the spread of such mosquito-borne diseases as dengue fever and filariasis.

The workshop was coordinated regionally by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and it involved Nouméa-based Institut Pasteur de Nouvelle-Calédonie and its entomologist Laurent Guillaumot.

The one-week workshop, which ended on Friday September 25, 2010, involved about twenty fie Fiji health ministry staff.

It was funded by the French Development Agency AFD.

The objective was to "sharpen their skills to identify and monitor the activity and density of disease vector mosquitoes, to address two priority mosquito borne diseases in Fiji: dengue fever and filariasis", the SPC said in a release last week.

"Fiji has several species of mosquitoes that can transmit dengue fever and filariasis, including Aedes Aegypti, Aedes Albopictus, Aedes Polynesiensis and Culex quinquefasciatus. Improvement of mosquito surveillance and understanding of their dynamics in the environment will assist the country in preventing future outbreaks of dengue fever and reducing incidence of filariasis", the regional organisation further stated, stressing that for the time being, there was no vaccine available for dengue fever.

The mosquito-transmitted parasite causing filariasis, in its more advanced and severe stages, can develop into what is generally described as elephantiasis, a major public health issue in many Pacific islands.

The Fiji chapter of this type of training was said to be part of a more regional project that could eventually set up a Pacific-wide mosquito-borne diseases surveillance network.

"It’s mainly to improve the health watch skills", Guillaumot told Oceania Flash, adding that Fiji held a unique place in the Pacific region in terms of prevalence of disease-carrying mosquitoes: apart from the Aedes Aegypti and Aedes Albopictus types of mosquitoes, there was also the Aedes Polynesiensis (that is also found in most parts of Polynesia, hence its name) and even two other species unique to Fiji that can be found on islands such as Rotuma (North-west).

The workshop was deemed to be particularly timely in that it also coincides with the return of the hot and wet season, creating ideal conditions for the proliferation of mosquitoes and their larvae.

"With the right tools in terms of detection and identification of the strains, it would become possible to observe trends and patterns over the years and also to better measure the impact of any given prevention campaign", Guillaumot predicted.

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