Let’s be vigilant

A basic look at Meningococcal Disease Manifestations. Picture: US National Meningitis Association.

MINISTER for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete has added caution to the revelation that the meningococcal disease, which was declared an outbreak in March, had started to ease off.

Members of the public, he said, should continue to be cautious about their health during this festive season. We are told 11 lives were lost between last year and this year from the deadly disease, and 46 cases were recorded by the Health Ministry between January 1 and April 12.

Dr Waqainabete said it was vital that we remain vigilant.

“Certainly we just have to be wary because we live in a tropical climate and this communicable disease is quite common. We are heading towards the end of the year and a few factors will come into play; the weather, the environment and also the way that we live our lives,” he said.

“My advice is being cautious, being careful, being watchful about what we eat and what we drink.

“When there is somebody or someone in the family who is untoward, who is not looking well or feeling well, then that person should be brought to the hospital and be looked at as soon as possible.”

Government had embarked on a Men-C vaccination program which saw more than 300,000 Fijians aged 19 years and below vaccinated against the deadly disease. Obviously it is critical that people understand what the meningococcal disease is.

We must understand the symptoms, understand issues intrinsically linked to how it spreads, and embrace every little detail attached to it.

Earlier this year, in March, the World Health Organization said it was important to remember that not everyone who has the bacteria would get the disease.

During an outbreak, between 10-25 per cent of the general population would carry the bacteria at the back of their nose and mouth from time to time, but would not have any symptoms.

While the disease was uncommon, it said, it could affect anyone.

There were questions raised by this shocking revelation back in March though.

Apparently figures were already available in 2016.

A key question was why wasn’t there a concerted effort made to create awareness then? Prior to 2016 there were 1-10 cases per year reported. In 2016 there were 29 cases and this rose to 48 cases in 2017.

Sceptics may insist that the shock element was actually good because it forced a rethink of how we did things in the face of the deadly disease.

However, there were questions raised about policy issues and public health, and the need for people to be aware of major concerns as soon as possible.

In light of that, it is actually encouraging to hear from our new Health Minister. His proactive stance, and advice, will no doubt be reassuring for the masses.

This should be acknowledged. Our challenge is to be proactive, and as the minister said, to be cautious this festive season.

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