By Louse Jobe
Information coming from the sister Republic of Senegal, report an outbreak of ‘Dengue’, a viral disease spread by mosquitoes. The outbreak is said to have been first reported in late September in the Fatick region of Senegal, but this has since spread to the rest of that country. Latest reports indicate that tens of cases have been reported in the Fatick, Diourbel, Saint Louis and Louga Regions of Senegal, and the Government of President Maki Sall, has embarked on a vigorous fumigation campaign aimed at eliminating mosquito breeding grounds especially in Touba ahead of the grand Magal, where one death has already been reported. The Senegalese Government has advised citizens and residents of the country, to take protective measures for themselves and their families from mosquito bites, by wearing cover clothing or using insect repellants and sleeping under treated mosquito nets, and to also eliminate all possible mosquito breeding grounds such as small pockets of stagnant water, that has collected in tin cans, bottles, used and discarded tyres, flower pots, clogged and filthy gutters, etc.
What is Dengue? Dengue fever is a viral disease spread by a particular mosquito. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) reports, this mosquito typically bites during the early morning and in the evening, but that they also bite and thus spread the infection at any time of day. Research has shown that four closely related viruses cause dengue, and that it is the fastest-growing mosquito-borne viral infection in the world. Symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, and rash. UN reports indicate that around 2.5% of people with severe dengue fever, die from the disease, but the worst is that dengue fever has no proven cure as yet. Dengue fever is also said to be life-threatening in some cases; that severe dengue causes abdominal pain and vomiting, breathing difficulties and a decrease in blood platelets that can lead to internal bleeding.
Dengue is said to be present in over 150 countries and more than 40% of the world’s population live in at-risk areas; that while most reported cases are in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific, dengue is now present in many African countries and spreading fast. The disease is also said to be spreading to parts of Europe, the USA and China.
Many governments are already doing a lot to fight the disease. Current efforts focus on prevention, such as using insecticides or reducing potential egg-laying habitats for dengue mosquitoes. Various organizations have also been known to be making progress in terms of immunization, with the most advanced vaccine candidate soon to be introduced in endemic countries.
However, this is said to be not quite enough, in the fight against this disease. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other health organizations such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC), call for a globally coordinated and integrated approach to address the issue, which risks becoming a global pandemic.
In 2012, WHO issued a Global strategy for the control of dengue, with specific objectives to reduce mortality by 50% (2020), reduce morbidity by 25% (2020) and to estimate the true burden of the disease by 2015.
The strategy relies on five technical elements: diagnosis and case management; integrated surveillance and outbreak preparedness; sustainable vector control; future vaccine implementation; and research. In order for this to be achieved, nations and organizations must work together in implementing a cross-border, sustainable approach to controlling the burden of dengue.
This reporter visited the Ministry of Health, to know their preparedness in case of any eventuality, and was able to speak to Dr. Sanna Sambou, Director at the Disease Control Department of the Ministry. Dr. Sambou told this reporter that the Ministry of Health is aware of the outbreak in Senegal and is working towards strengthening their disease surveillance system especially the control and prevention of mosquitoes. According to Dr. Sambou, this is the third time of a Dengue outbreak in Senegal; that the disease is yet to be detected or confirmed in the Gambia. ‘‘We are working on improving our diagnostic capacities to help in early detection in our health facilities and structures. Dengue is not part of our national priority list of diseases, but it is under surveillance, due mainly to the international movement of people and animals. Malaria is our priority and it has almost been eliminated. Dengue is a disease of the Asia-pacific regions and is endemic around South America, where there is less or no malaria. With very good mosquito prevention and control programmes, Dengue may not pose a major threat for us in the Gambia. However it is not only Ministry of Health but everyone should be engaged in taking care of ‘our’ health and ensure less exposure to mosquitoes by maintaining a clean environment to eliminate all breeding sites of these insects,’’ he told this reporter.
Dr. Sambou continued that the Ministry of Health has plans to research into Dengue soon, because they continue to receive cases of abnormal fevers, and advised that people must always adhere to precautionary health measures and apply them as much as possible; that together we can maintain the best health of our nation, because a healthy nation is a wealthy one.