Cook Islands Continues Battle Against Chikungunya Virus

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Insecticide spraying, information campaign stepped up

By Cameron Scott

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, May 20, 2015) – The Cook Islands Public Health Service says it is doing its best to keep up with a programme to spray insecticide around the homes and workplaces of Chikungunya disease victims in a bid to control the spread of the debilitating virus.

And Public Health is upping its efforts to spread the message on the disease, providing information at Rarotonga International Airport to inform visitors about the viral disease and how to protect themselves against it, as well as putting up posters at key locations at the airport.

According to the Director of Community Health Services, Dr Neti Herman, efforts to control the spread of Chikungunya finally appear to be gaining ground.

Statistics compiled on May 18 show 521 people have contracted the virus in the last 20 weeks.

A total of 536 cases have been reported since October last year.

Rarotonga has been hardest-hit by Chikungunya with a total of 497 cases reported, with just six on Aitutaki, 16 on Rakahanga and two on Manihiki.

However it appears cases may have been under-reported and some people affected by Chikungunya are not going to the hospital or private doctors.

Dr Herman says the amount of new cases appears to fluctuate according to the weather, and shot up to peak at 73 during a bout of very wet weather several weeks ago, which would have caused a proliferation of the virus-spreading Aedes-aegytpi mosquito.

"Rarotonga is where the main problem is.

However last week, which was week 20 since the outbreak began, the number of new cases fell to 35, so the virus appears to be on the decline."

The virus peaked in April when there was a lot of rain, but following an island-wide Tutaka health check on Rarotonga, cases began to drop. Victims are now spread around the island, with no areas appearing to be particularly hard-hit.

Dr Herman encourages island residents to keep their properties clean to cut down on the number of places where mosquitoes can breed.

"The problem is when something like this outbreak happens, people jump up and down about it, but then they don’t clean their properties."

The Public Health Service is now considering widening the spraying programme to cover the entire island, block by block, but in the meantime, residents who want their properties sprayed should contact Public Health, Dr Herman says.

She says block spraying poses some problems as it is advisable for elderly and young babies to be kept clear while spraying is carried out, using the chemicals Key Pyrethrum and Key Delta Aqua.

"At present we are concentrating on prevention, and we’re hoping the outbreak will have settled down by the time it comes to the Constitution celebrations.

"We’re planning to spray around all the hostels, schools and other places where tere parties stay, and we will be continuing our efforts to inform people about Chikungunya thorugh Tv programmes, press releases and two local radio stations.

We also have pamphlets available.

"Considering the limited resources available to us, we think we are doing OK.

"We are doing all the work we can to contain the outbreak and we’d like to encourage the community to help us control the spread of Chikungunya."

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