Marshalls state of emergency over Dengue outbreak
Health officials in Marshall Islands will declare a state of emergency today as the outbreak of dengue fever continues to spread.
Last Friday the Ministry of Health in Majuro announced the first three cases and since then 60 more have been confirmed.
Doctor Mary-Jane Gancio is a pedeatrician at Majuro Hospital and diagnosed the first case of the disease last week.
Speaker:Doctor Mary-Jane Gancio, pedeatrician, Majuro Hospital
GANCIO: This is the first time that we have confirmed cases of dengue fever in the Marshall Islands.
COUTTS: Well, what are the special circumstances that has caused this outbreak of dengue fever for the first time in the Marshalls?
GANCIO: There would be a big chance for a second outbreak, because dengue fever has four strains from viruses and it can attack or come in at any time, especially during the rainy, when there is an increased rainfall.
COUTTS: Why do you think that you've got an outbreak for the first time in Marshall Islands?
GANCIO: This is the first time that we were able to confirm several cases of dengue fever in Majuro. In fact, as of yesterday, at 5 pm, we already have 60 confirmed cases.
COUTTS: Six zero, 60 did you say?
GIANCO: Yes, six zero.
COUTTS: Is it easily treatable?
GIANCO: Yes, we manage these cases by just hydration, oral hydration if they are simple cases, however, if they are hospitalised, we give them intravenous fluids and some analgesics in the form of Tylenol or paracetomol.
COUTTS: What are the symptoms?
GIANCO: The symptoms first they have fever, they have headache, they have muscle aches and joint aches and some of them develop rashes, or flushing of the skin and some of them manifested some mild bleeding, some patients had nose bleeding, some of them have blood in their stools. They are presented as blackish stools.
COUTTS: Now Marshall Islands health officials have asked the government for an emergency declaration. Did that happen?
GIANCO: Yes, the government has already signed the declaration of a state of emergency and they're going to announce that today.
COUTTS: What does that mean, what will happen now?
GIANCO: This means that there well be a launching of nationwide masking cleanup a campaign to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds and this will aim to get the government agencies, businesses, NGOs, churches and families will be involved in this clean up to remove the breeding locations in the country and this is the best way to eliminate the breeding places, and this is the best way to prevent the spread of dengue fever.
COUTTS: Will you be able to contain it to Majuro?
GIANCO: This is one of the aims of this state of emergency and that this part of it is that they propose a declaration, taht will restrict travel from Majuro to the outer islands and other places if necessary.
COUTTS: That hasn't actually happened that restriction of travel as yet?
GIANCO: Not yet, but this is included in the state of emergency plan.
COUTTS: Now will the 60 people with dengue fever that you've diagnosed so far, will they all be OK, will they all survive this, will they be treated and live through this?
GIANCO: As of yesterday, we already have discharged some patients. We have some cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever, meaning to say that these patients manifested with some bleeding and they are stable and some percentage with the uncomplicated cases of dengue fever.
COUTTS: Go ahead.
GIANCO: Yeah, we have not encountered any severe form of dengue hemorrhagic fever, that means we have not encountered patients who manifested with shock or circulatory collapse yet.
COUTTS: Is that because the strain of dengue fever in Marshall Islands is not severe?
GIANCO: Probably that can be one reason. We already received a report from Hawaii about the strain that we are getting here in Majuro and they said that it can be the dengue virus two and four or it might be both two and four, a combination of two and four.
COUTTS: So that means that you can treat it more easily now that you know which strains you're dealing with?
GIANCO: Actually when we treat dengue fever, we just hydrate these patients, because in dengue fever, there is usually dehydration. So that is the main treatment for dengue fever, hydrate them to prevent all the side affects and also give them some blood if there is really a great amount of blood lost. But so far, we have not encountered any dengue shock syndrome.