'God's will': Health minister's response on dengue fever deaths in East Nusa Tenggara

Hengky Ola Sura

Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto has thanked local health workers for their efforts to tackle a dengue fever outbreak in East Nusa Tenggara’s Sikka regency despite the death of 13 patients to the mosquito-borne viral disease.

"There were 1,190 people suffering [from dengue fever in Sikka] – that is quite a number. Thirteen of them have died, but it was not our fault. It is God's will," Terawan said during a visit to TC Hillers Maumere Region General Hospital in Sikka on Monday, as quoted by

According to the Sikka administration, 1,065 people of the total patients have recovered and have been discharged from hospitals.

Terawan said the patients treated in the hospitals suffered from dengue shock syndrome (DSS), a dangerous complication of dengue infection that is associated with high mortality.

The minister brought along 30 physicians -- including pediatricians and internists -- and six nurses on his Sikka trip.

"I am here as ordered by President Joko [Jokowi] Widodo. He sends his regards to all of you for your hard work [to fight the disease] under the Sikka regent's leadership.

"Even some of the health personnel here suffered from the fever themselves. You've done such extraordinary work," said Terawan.

Following Terawan's visit, Sikka regency reported a 14th fatality in the outbreak as a 7-year-old succumbed to the disease at the Hillers hospital on Monday evening.

Meanwhile, Alex Armanjaya of the Community Development Foundation (Yaspem), which fights against malaria in Sikka, suggested the government reactivate the role of jumantik (community healthcare workers) in carrying out on-site monitoring to curb the spread of dengue fever, which is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Alex said Yaspem had trained 316 jumantik, but the Sikka administration had yet to make use of them during the current dengue fever wave.

"If Sikka plans to avoid another plague in the future, the administration must redeploy the jumantik -- give them financial aid.

"In my observation, only Nenbura village in Doreng district has taken serious action in deploying jumantik.

"You can't wait for a case to [request the services] of jumantik," said Alex, adding that the jumantik worked continually.

Alex went on to say that Sikka regency had agreed to support the work of jumantik using money from the village funds program. (gis)