Four children dead in two days from dengue fever complications

A fourth dengue fever fatality in just two days has prompted meetings between Male’ City Council and the Ministry of Health to discuss “immediate steps” to reduce the number of mosquito breeding grounds in the capital.

The President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said cabinet had also launched a program to counter the dengue outbreak and appointed a committee to oversee mosquito reduction efforts.

Haveeru reported that a four year old child from Muraidhoo in Haa Alif Atoll became the fourth death in two days, dying this morning while in transit to Kulhudhuffushi Regional Hospital.

The cause of the death was dengue hemorrhagic fever, the newspaper reported.

A two year old infant died at 3:00am this morning while being treated in Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Male’. Haveeru reported a relative as claiming that the infant had to be transferred from ADK due to lack of availability of a blood transfusion machine.

A six year-old girl and a nine month-old baby died yesterday after being transferred to Male’ from Meemu Atoll.

Health Minister Dr Aminath Jameel, replying to a question from MDP MP Ali Waheed during yesterday’s parliament session, said the ministry was providing information to islands through teleconferencing and stressed that controlling mosquito breeding grounds was key to combating the rise in dengue fever across the country.

“Mosquitoes don’t travel very far,” she explained. “Therefore, it’s mosquitoes from nearby areas that are spreading it. Controlling mosquito [breeding] is needed from the public and individuals as well. We are working together with island councils and the Male’ city council.”

She added that the Addu City council had taken initiative and organised activities to combat the spread of the disease.

“An additional problem that we encounter is the quick turnover of doctors in the country’s hospitals and health centres,” she said. “So they are not very familiar with the protocol here. We are facing that problem as well. But as I’ve said, this can’t solved without controlling mosquito [breeding].”

When People’s Alliance (PA) MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla asked if she was considering resignation “since based on what is being said here your sector has very much failed,” Dr Jameel replied that she did not believe that was the case.

The Maldives has been battling a growing epidemic of dengue fever this year, with 300 cases and five deaths reported in just the first two months of the year.

There has been a spike in the number of cases reported in Male’, however most of the fatalities have been islanders who died in transit to regional hospitals. Many of the most serious cases have affected children.

Early symptoms of virus 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. Even healthy adults can be left immobile by dengue for several weeks while the disease runs its course.

The government and health authorities have expressed concern about mosquito breeding grounds developing in stagnant water in the city’s many construction sites.

“The boom in the construction industry has created a huge number of mosquito breeding grounds,” former head of the Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC), Dr Ahmed Jamsheed, told Minivan News in April.

“In Male’ when the Council gives planning permission it requires management of mosquito breeding grounds, but have so far failed to enforce it or conduct inspections. My experience in Male’ was that when our teams visited construction sites there was often nobody at the site to communicate with in Dhivehi or English.”

While the teams might be contact with the construction company responsible for the building, often those working at the site were employed under layers of subcontracting which made it difficult to place responsibility, he added.

Zuhair told Minivan News today that the problem was exacerbated by the large number of unfinished buildings where construction had ceased.

“For example, one proposed seven storey-building has [ceased construction] at four storeys, and has pools of stagnant water on top,” he said, adding that it was sometimes difficult to pinpoint who was responsible for the building site due to the layers of subcontractors involved.

Many islands had sought to combat the problem by borrowing fogging equipment and expertise from nearby resorts to kill their mosquito populations, but this also killed beneficial insects, he said.

“It is common for resorts to loan fogging equipment and technical assistance to local islands, but this has negative side effects: it kills all the other insects, which prevents pollination and impacts agricultural activity,” Zuhair explained, adding that human intervention and the elimination of breeding sites was the main priority.