DENGUE FEVER KILLS 8-YEAR-OLD IN TAHITI

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PAPE‘ETE, Tahiti (May 30, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---The Type 1 dengue fever epidemic that broke out in January has now caused one death.

An eight-year-old boy who contracted the disease was buried on Tuesday, the daily newspaper La Dépêche de Tahiti reports.

Narii Limik died last Saturday in Papara (southeastern coast of Tahiti island), after being admitted to the hospital. He complained of high fever.

Family, friends and schoolmates attended the funeral.

This week, local health authorities, the territorial health department and the research institute Malardé, established that the mosquito-borne epidemic now has affected 8,000 people.

Ninety percent of the clinical cases confirmed by blood analysis involve young people under 15 years of ago, statistics show, and at least 203 had to be admitted to the hospital for treatment.

The last epidemic of this magnitude in French Polynesia took place five years ago. It also claimed one victim, a 20-year-old man.

It was, however, preceded by an even deadlier one, in 1990, which claimed 12 lives, primarily young children.

Since the current epidemic broke out in January, the local health department and Malardé Institute have been engaged in joint efforts to curb the disease.

But officials are not optimistic. Since the beginning of May, they say the epidemic has progressed even more rapidly.

It now affects the main island of Tahiti (especially near the capital, Pape’ete, and its suburbs), and the Windward Leeward islands groups, especial the top tourist destination of Bora Bora.

The Health department and Malardé Institute have again advised the public to destroy all potential mosquito breeding sites.

They also advised not to use aspirin if dengue contamination is suspected, because it is an anticoagulant (prevents blood from clotting), which could trigger hemorrhaging.

General weather conditions over the French territory are not favorable to an immediate slowdown of the disease’s progress. Rain has been frequent, which assists the proliferation of mosquitoes.

The worst-case scenario experts say is that the epidemic could even last until "October or November."

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