Indonesia: Authorities slammed for slow response in containing dengue outbreak

Syamsul Huda M. Suhari, Ganug Nugroho Adi and Slamet Susanto, The Jakarta Post 10 Feb 16;

Gorontalo resident Opan could not hide his disappointment after his pleas for the local administration to fumigate was met with no response despite the ongoing dengue fever outbreak in the municipality.

Opan, who lives in Tomulabutao subdistrict, said he was worried that the mosquito-borne disease would quickly reach his neighborhood if locals failed to take the necessary preventive measures, particularly fumigation.

“We repeatedly asked the subdistrict administration to fumigate, but no health officer has come to our neighborhood,” he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Gorontalo and a dozen other cities, including Tangerang in Banten, North Luwu in Sulawesi and Gianyar in Bali, have declared their dengue outbreaks extraordinary occurrences after the disease claimed the lives of dozens of people and hospitalized hundreds of others since the beginning of the year.

In Gorontalo, which is also the capital of Gorontalo province, dengue fever claimed four lives and hospitalized 161 people during the first five weeks of the year.

Despite the ongoing spread of the disease, the city administration, however, has made little headway in carrying out preventive measures, including fumigation.

In Kota Barat district, for example, at least three subdistricts have reported that no fumigation had been carried out in the area even though some residents were hospitalized earlier this month with dengue fever.

Separately, Gorontalo Health Agency head Nur Albar said that as of Tuesday, her institution had fumigated only 30 percent of the areas within the municipality. She attributed the slow progress mainly to administrative reasons.

“The city administration has allocated Rp 196.3 million (US$14,423) from this year’s budget for fumigation,” she said.

“However, as of last week, we could only access the first amount of money totalling Rp 78.5 million.”

The Aedes aegypti mosquito spreads dengue fever. After a person has been bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito it takes four to 10 days for symptoms to manifest. The most common symptoms are high fever, severe headache, nausea, swollen glands and joint pain.

The disease can be deadly when a patient experiences plasma leakage, fluid accumulation, respiratory distress, severe bleeding or organ impairment.

With the absence of a vaccine to protect against dengue, vector control is the only method available for the prevention and control of the disease.

Meanwhile in Sragen, Central Java, Tunggul subdistrict chief Suntoro called on the regional administration on Tuesday to immediately arrange fumigation in the subdistrict. He said 15 villagers had contracted dengue fever so far this month, triggering anxiety among local residents.

“The local administration must take real action instead of just keeping busy disseminating information on the government’s anti-mosquito campaign,” he said.

In Yogyakarta, a group of Gadjah Mada University researchers under the Eliminate Dengue Project (EDP) is planning to release mosquitoes that carry a bacteria called Wolbachia into the region in an effort to prevent dengue fever. The mosquitoes will later spread the bacteria, which can contain the development of the dengue virus, through breeding.

EDP spokesperson Bekti Andarini said the method was tested in 2015 in four villages in Sleman and Bantul regencies, after which scientists found that 80 percent of mosquitoes in the areas carried Wolbachia.

“This year we will release the mosquitoes in Yogyakarta municipality to prove whether the method is effective in controlling dengue fever,” Bekti said.

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