Thursday 3 September 2009

Dengue fever epidemic declared officially over

Queensland Health is expected to declare the dengue fever epidemic officially over tomorrow.

This season was the largest recorded dengue fever epidemic in Australia in at least 50 years, after the first cases were confirmed in early December 2008.

The dengue fever type 3 epidemic, saw 931 people infected with a virulent strain of the mosquito-borne disease.

An elderly Cairns woman died, due to complications with Dengue in March. There were have 57 type 1 cases of dengue recorded in Townsville, 35 type 4 cases in Innisfail, and two type 2 cases in Cairns.

In February, I exposed the serious lack of strategic management, as the initial cases of breeding sites in North Cairns were notified to Cairns Regional Council. This area later was identified as ground zero where substantial infections occurred in the early weeks. It was a shocking display from Council's Gill Farrow, who headed the Dengue Response Unit, much of what was preventable.

After no answer from Council about why they took 7 weeks to attended to a vacant house site, I took the story to ABC Far North to get some action at Council.

Subsequently, many complaints were exposed that went unanswered or callers were given no help. Breeding stagnant water was also found in Council's Martin Street Works Depot, three blocks from the North Cairns, Gatton Street site.

There's no doubt, that a critical senior review between Queensland Health's Tropical Population Health and Cairns Regional Council, needs to take place, to better prepare themselves for the next wet season, less than two months away.

Although much of the prevention of breeding sites lands with home-owners, a better reaction and managed system needs to be introduced by local authorises, to this largely preventable infestation.

In March, as we hit 582 Dengue cases in Cairns, I advocated for a hard waste collection, as many Councils do around Australia. This one of the key breeding grounds for the deadly mosquito larvae, however Cairns Council baulked at the expected cost.

The total number of locally-acquired dengue cases since November 2008 was 1,025.

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