A. Situation Analysis
Description of the disaster
In November 2016, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has observed an increased reported cases of dengue infection in the country. Like other Pacific Island countries and territories, Vanuatu is prone to dengue outbreaks and epidemics. The country has experienced five major outbreaks since 1970 – the worst occurred in 1989 with over 3,000 admissions and 12 deaths. Since the 1989 outbreak, the government has upgraded its surveillance and control system and developed dengue preparedness plans. With the rainy season in full effect from November to April, it is feared that this dengue outbreak could expand considerably without appropriate and timely intervention.
As of 23 January 2017, there were 919 suspected cases of dengue fever and 142 confirmed cases. There are more cases being reported and confirmed on Efate, Urban Port vila and nearby rural areas and cases are also coming in from Sola in Torba province, Luganville in Sanma, Emae in Shefa, Norsup in Malampa province and Lenakel in Tanna, Tafea province. The current dengue epidemic of sterotype 2 affects all age groups and therefore is a national threat that warrants national responsibility, public, private and communal response.
Of the 919 suspected cases, 142 have been confirmed positive, four of them severe. Twenty-four per cent of the cases are found among children between five and 14, 24.2 per cent are found among those between the ages of 15 and 24, and 19.4 per cent are among those between 25 and 34, and 18.8 per cent of patients above the age of 34, i.e. 86.6 per cent of cases have been found in the population above four (4) years of age. As of 9 December, the Ministry of Health announced that they would no longer send all cases for testing. Only cases from new sites, severe dengue cases and about two cases per day will be tested to detect potential introduction of new dengue virus serotypes and/or Zika virus and/or Chikungunya virus. The number of confirmed cases may therefore not accurately reflect the true extent of the outbreak.
With this current situation, the National Dengue Task Force (NDTF) has issued a press statement to focus on education and awareness as the key preventive measure to control this epidemic. On 30 December 2016, the Ministry of Health, through the NDTF, established a stratified Orange Alert due to the growing number of cases of dengue fever in the country. Orange Alert for Port-Vila 4 municipal Ward, Yellow Alert for Efate rural areas, Lenakel-Tanna, Luganville-Santo, and Sola- Banks, and Green alert in the remaining areas of country where dengue cases were not reported. Alert levels may continue to vary according to the level of propagation and detection of cases.
On 17 January 2017, the Vanuatu Red Cross Society (VNRC) has received a formal request from the Director of the Public Health Department to assist the health response field teams to conduct community education and awareness, and to work closely with the national office of the Public Health Department as the lead coordinator in this response.
Currently, Vanuatu has had an increase in dengue cases that exceeds the trends in recent years. Four out of the six provinces of Vanuatu have reported dengue cases, which may mean that the vector, the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, is circulating in different parts of the country. Approximately 20,000 people across these four provinces are considered to be at risk should they not take preventive measures and get exposed to virus via mosquito bites.