Wednesday 4 March 2009

Dengue death in Cairns

The first recorded death from the mosquito-borne Dengue disease, has been recorded in Cairns.

An elderly Manoora woman, who had other health complications, was infected with the Dengue virus, died on Sunday. "There were a number of contributing factors but we can confirm it was Dengue-related," Queensland Health.

Queensland Health's Tropical Population Health unit, told CairnsBlog that this is the first death recorded in over five years, when a Torres Strait resident died after contracting the virus.

"Prior to that, it was many years, probably more than 70 years, where we recorded a Dengue-related death," a Queensland Health spokesperson said. They have formed a Dengue Incident Team to manage the crisis and working alongside Cairns Regional Council's Health Unit.

The 82-year-old woman, is one of 561 Cairns residents that have been diagnosed with Dengue fever since December 1st last year. This outbreak has shown to be the fastest transmission rate in recorded history. Previous outbreaks, although recording similar numbers, have occurred over a much longer period.

Last month I exposed Cairns Council's appallingly slow response in the early days of the outbreak. My report Dengue, our sleeping bushfire - Part 1 drew a degree of concern from Council CEO, Noel Briggs. With the support of Kier Shorey, I took the story on air to ABC's Far North. However, we are yet to learn if a change in systems have occurred. The arrangement with Queensland Health appears to be complicated and confused, with each agency referring some concerned residents to the other.

My story described a specific breeding site in Gatton Street, North Cairns, were the first recorded infections were taking place. I also discovered that a senior Council Officer was advised of this location on the day of discovery, yet there was no response for 13 days, when the complainant received a follow-up telephone from Council. It is now obvious that this site, contributed to the initial spread and outbreak. Around 120 cases of Dengue infection have been recorded in and around the streets of North Cairns, acknowledged as 'Ground Zero'.

At a media briefing this afternoon, Queensland Health public health physician Dr Jeffrey Hanna said the woman's death was tragic and a reminder that dengue fever can be fatal. "Dengue outbreaks have become more and more common here in the past two decades, particularly with the increase in international travel," Dr Hanna said.

This is the first time ever that all four strains, or types, of the Dengue virus has been recorded. Queensland Health estimates at least one in four have been hospitalised, with a number admitted to intensive care.

It has been revealed that Dengue-carrying mosquitoes had become immune to a pesticide used by health authorities to combat the spread of the disease.

Townsville has recorded 71 cases, 3 in Port Douglas, 1, in Innisfail, 2 in Yarrabah, and 1 in Injinoo on Cape York Peninsula.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It was only a matter of time I suppose, given the ineffectual response. The shame is that this was TOTALLY preventable!