One life lost is one too many. And if reports are true that a young father, who had returned home to start rental business has died from dengue fever, we have every reason to be alarmed.
Which makes the concerns expressed by Member of Parliament, Olo Fiti Vaai, on the front page of yesterday’s Samoa Observer extremely valid. We’ll get to that in a moment.
The truth is that when it comes to matters of life and death, there is no room for complacency. Not when people are dying around us.
Now from what we’ve been told, Fiaali’i Mariner was admitted for dengue fever and while he might have had other health complications as a contributing factor, the cause of death has been identified as dengue fever.
This is obviously not a good time for Fiaali’i’s family. We pray for peace and comfort for his wife, Alei, their children and loved ones as they come to terms with their unexpected loss.
But his death should serve as a reminder about the seriousness of dengue fever and why we should do everything possible to protect ourselves, people close to us and this community.
While we don’t have the figures, we know the number of dengue fever cases at the hospital has been climbing for the past few weeks. And whether Fiaali’i is the first dengue fever-related death is another matter altogether.
It is also why the concerns expressed by Olo Fiti about the government’s handling of the dengue fever outbreak are valid and should be taken seriously.
Yesterday, Olo said he was alarmed by the number of dengue fever patients at the Moto’otua Hospital – especially young children. He also questioned why many schools remain opened when from his research; he found that many children had contracted the virus from other students at school.
“Dengue Fever is a serious virus and I am furious about the lack of a full force campaign to eliminate the mosquitoes breeding sites,” he said.
“My visit to the hospital was a clear indication about the seriousness of the problem and from speaking to the nurses and health workers, it became clear that most of the children hospitalised were affected from the schools.
“Why are the schools are still open then when the government knows this is a source of the problem? They should have shut down the schools already while the government deals with this predicament head on?”
Olo has a point. Many schools remain opened when the students are hardly doing anything productive apart from singing. Why drag the term to justify the school fees when students could be sent home for their safety and that of the general public?
The arrival of the wet and rainy season hasn’t helped.
Getting back to Olo, he said he was not happy with how things have been handled by the Ministry of Health.
“Dengue fever will take lives of our children if we don’t act immediately,” he said. “The Cabinet should have been informed of how critical the situation is currently. I visited the hospital and it was unbelievable how over crowded the pediatric ward is with the number of sick children.
“I was told some of them were sent home because the hospital cannot take any more patients.”
Olo said members of the public need to understand the dangers of dengue fever and it is up to the government to drive home that message.
To be fair to the Health authorities, they had issued a warning about the outbreak of dengue fever last month. At the time, the Director General of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, emphasized the importance of source reduction as the main weapon of prevention.
At the time, he called for proper disposal of solid waste, cleaning of domestic water storage containers and applying of appropriate insecticides to water storage outdoor containers. He also stressed the need for people to sleep in mosquito nets, wear long-sleeved clothes, apply insecticide-treated materials, use of mosquito coils and other ways of protecting yourself.
But he made a mistake.
“The main reason we are releasing this information is not to panic our people, but to advise and inform our people there is a dengue outbreak around,” he said at the time.
This is rather silly.
How can you not panic when there is clearly an outbreak? If the problem had reached outbreak proportion, then obviously there is reason for people to panic.
An outbreak after all does not just happen. And sometimes panicking is justified when it comes to matters of saving lives. All it means is that awareness is heightened where everyone needs to get the message and do what they need to do protect themselves and their loved ones.
Today, we know so many people are suffering from dengue fever. And we hope Fiaali’i’s death becomes the catalyst for a stronger campaign to ensure no one else will experience the sadness of losing a loved one to dengue fever – especially this close to Christmas and the New Year.
That said, we remind once more that we all have a part to play. Here are some other prevention tools from the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) to help you protect your families:
• preventing mosquitoes from accessing egg-laying habitats by environmental management and modification;
• disposing of solid waste properly and removing artificial man-made habitats;
• covering, emptying and cleaning of domestic water storage containers on a weekly basis;
• applying appropriate insecticides to water storage outdoor containers;
• using of personal household protection such as window screens, long-sleeved clothes, insecticide treated materials, coils and vaporizers;
• improving community participation and mobilization for sustained vector control;
• applying insecticides as space spraying during outbreaks as one of the emergency vector-control measures;
• active monitoring and surveillance of vectors should be carried out to determine effectiveness of control interventions.
• Careful clinical detection and management of dengue patients can significantly reduce mortality rates from severe dengue
Take care and stay safe Samoa, God bless!