We must be vigilant

THE revelation that 11 people have died from meningococcal disease will shock many people.

The fact that four deaths were recorded this year alone and seven last year should raise alarm bells.

Confirming this in a ministerial statement in Parliament yesterday, Health Minister Rosy Akbar said the invasive meningococcal disease used to be very rare in Fiji.

Prior to 2015, Ms Akbar said, annual incidence rate was consistently below one per 100,000 population, equivalent to 0 to 10 cases annually.

However, from the fourth quarter of 2016, she said, the ministry noted a significant increase in cases, recording 46 confirmed cases for the period of January 1 to April 12 this year, 48 cases for last year and 29 cases for 2016.

Out of the 46 cases recorded for January to April this year, 22 cases were laboratory confirmed cases and 24 were either suspected or probable cases with similar symptoms, but not diagnosed by laboratory.

She said there have been four confirmed meningococcal disease related deaths and two suspected from January 1 to April 12 this year.

The reality is that anyone can get meningococcal disease.

However, as the minister said yesterday, most cases are seen in babies, children under the age of five, teenagers and young adults.

This actually draws in parents, guardians and adults to be proactive.

The Central Division, Ms Akbar said, had recorded 27 cases, the Western Division 16 cases, the Eastern Division one case and the Northern Division two cases from January 1 to April 12 this year.

The revelation is frightening.

But let’s not be demoralised by the scenario of doom and gloom.

The revelation should motivate us to understand the symptoms. In a sense, it is good that the figures are being revealed. They stand as testimony to the danger the disease poses. For that the minister has to be acknowledged.

We must make it our business to be aware and vigilant on the home front.

Our children must be encouraged to understand the symptoms as well.

Surely questions will continue to be raised about why awareness about this killer disease wasn’t created in 2016, and in 2017 when seven people died.

For now though, the critical issue is fighting it. That means appreciating the danger it poses to us, being aware and working together to nullify its impact on our lives.

We must have the desire to fight this. There is no room for complacency.

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