Health authorities focus on mosquito controls as hospital confirms infant dengue fatality

Male’s Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) has confirmed that a nine-month old child died today from dengue fever as health officials look to combat further spread of the virus through attempts to control mosquito numbers.

Hospital spokesperson Zeenath Ali confirmed that the child was pronounced dead at 12:27am after being admitted with suspected dengue fever two days earlier.  Ali added that she was unable to give any further details of the specific strain of the virus that the child was thought to have suffered from or any additional details about the death without the consent of the infant’s family.

According to figures supplied by the Male’ Health Services Corporation Limited, a total of 59 people have been admitted to hospital between June 1 and June 20 this year suffering from the virus. Of these cases, six were admitted on suspicion of catching dengue fever, 50 were hospitalised with the dengue hemorrhagic variant of the virus and three others were diagnosed with dengue shock syndrome – where blood pressure drops so low that organs cannot function properly. Over the same period, 25 people were diagnosed by the hospital of having dengue fever and were treated as outpatients.

Early symptoms of virus are said to include fever, joint paint and a distinctive rash and headache, although it can be difficult to distinguish from the milder Chikungunya disease which can last for up to five days. However, even healthy adults can be left immobile by dengue for several weeks while the disease runs its course.

More than 300 cases of dengue fever in the Maldives were reported during the first two months of 2011, compared with 737 cases and two fatalities reported over the course of last year. While many of these cases were reported in Male’, most of the fatalities have been islanders, with the more serious cases thought to have disproportionately affected children.

Amidst these concerns, health authorities in the country have claimed that they are committed to a programme of working to control mosquito populations to try and combat the spread of the virus, particularly in island areas.

Geela Ali, Permanent Secretary for the Health Ministry, told Minivan News that while officials had not received any official reports of recent fatalities linked to dengue as of yesterday, there was concern in the ministry about outbreaks of the virus across the country of late.

Ali claimed that under present government health strategies, clinicians were being put at the forefront of efforts to try and provide local people with the best means to prevent potential infection of the virus, particularly in its more prominent forms like the type 1 strain.

“The main challenge is working with clinicians to pass on case management strategies to local clinics,” she said. “One of things we are trying to do is control [mosquito populations] and we are consulting with local councils and even the media in trying to do this.”

According to Ali, the hones for trying to combat dengue in the country remained on encouraging the public to locate and destroy mosquito breeding areas as to reduce incidences of the virus as effectively as possible.

While accepting that additional chemical spraying around various islands was one possibility being considered by the government  to stem the problem, she added this was strictly to be used only after clean ups of breeding grounds particularly on private property had taken place to ensure long-term effectiveness.

Earlier this year, the Centre for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC) and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) conducted spraying of mosquito breeding sites in Male’ and the surrounding islands, but reported difficulty obtaining access to residential and construction sites.

Virus management

Back in April, Minivan News reported that health experts believed fears over a growing number of dengue fatalities was potentially related to lapses in managing the disease, particularly due to the high turnover of foreign doctors on islands.

Dr Ahmed Jamsheed, a former head of the CCHDC, observed that January and February 2011 had seen higher instances of suspected dengue shock syndrome occurring in the country.

“Our initial theory was that this was a new strain of dengue,” he said. “There are four different strains, and strains one and three have been most prevalent. We took samples and sent them abroad but I had left the office by the time the results came back. I’m told out of the samples we sent a few tested positive for dengue one, which means no new strain.”