We must be aware

The revelation that there is an outbreak of the life-threatening meningococcal disease in Fiji is a concern.

It is a concern because it can be deadly, and many people are not aware of this.

It is encouraging though that the Ministry of Health has come out strongly to reassure us that our hospitals are prepared to deal with patients diagnosed with the disease.

The assurance from the ministry comes in the wake of its announcement that we have an outbreak of the disease.

Over recent years Fiji has had an increase in cases of meningococcal disease it seems.

Prior to 2016, there were 1-10 cases per year reported. In 2016 there were 29 cases, and in 2017 there were 48 cases. This year there have been 18 cases as of February 21.

National adviser communicable disease Dr Aalisha Sahukhan confirmed that from 2016 until February this year there have been 12 deaths.

This figure, however, was still yet to be finalised as the MOH was still investigating other suspected deaths.

Ms Sahukhan has emphasised the need for us all to be very aware and to be alert about symptoms of the disease.

It is critically important that we present ourselves or loved ones to hospitals when we do notice symptoms.

The fact that it is a deadly disease is worrying. It will inch out fear and great concern.

That’s a natural reaction for most people.

Early treatment via the usage of antibiotics was only administered within health facilities.

There is the added reassurance that we have enough antibiotics in the government facility, we are told.

It is encouraging to note that the ministry is actually working to ensure that supplies are out there in the divisions.

Emphasis has been placed on medical officers transferring suspected patients to divisional hospitals. People who have meningococcal disease need to be managed in a big divisional hospital.

Early antibiotic treatment is the most important measure to save lives and reduce complications. When such treatment and supportive clinical care are started early, between 85 per cent to 90 per cent of cases survive the infection.

This is why it is critically important that people see a doctor as soon as they notice symptoms.

Practising proper hygiene, the ministry said, can help prevent the spread of the disease, so:

* Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or handkerchief when coughing and sneezing. Dispose of tissues in the bin, wash handkerchief daily with soap and water;

* After coughing or sneezing, wash your hands with soap and water; and,

* Don’t share eating utensils, cups/glasses/water bottles, drinks, cigarettes, or kava bowls.

Many people may be alarmed by this news. That is to be expected.

Let’s focus on staying safe. That means being proactive. It means being aware. We must be in control of our emotions. We have been warned.

More Stories