Fiji Islands hosted an entomology training course (20 to 24 September) to enhance identification, surveillance and control of vector mosquitoes (those that can transmit diseases) in the country with the support of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Pasteur Institute of New Caledonia (IPNC). The training was supported by financial assistance from the French Agency for Development.
Twenty-five Ministry of Health participants from all over Fiji Islands took part in the five-day course training to sharpen their skills to identify and monitor the activity and density of disease vector mosquitoes, to address two priority mosquito borne diseases in Fiji: dengue fever and filariasis.
Fiji has several species of mosquitoes that can transmit dengue fever and filariasis, including Aedes aegypti, Aedes albopictus, Aedes polynesiensis and Culex quinquefasciatus. Improvement of mosquito surveillance and understanding of their dynamics in the environment will assist the country in preventing future outbreaks of dengue fever and reducing incidence of filariasis.
Dengue fever is a disease of concern in Fiji Islands. In 1997–1998 and 2008 the country experienced major outbreaks resulting in loss of lives, substantial health care stress and considerable economic costs. The 1998 outbreak affected 24,000 people (including 1,600 hospitalisations) and the 2008 outbreak affected 2,000 people.
At present there is no vaccine available for dengue fever. Hence the mainstay for dengue prevention is the control of vector mosquitoes.
This training was very timely as the rainy season will soon begin, bringing conditions favourable for mosquito breeding. The training also supported the implementation of the recently developed Fiji National Dengue Strategic Plan 2010–2014.
Filariasis is also a priority disease, with suspected prevalence of approximately 6.3% of the population infected with microfilaria.
The training was conducted by Laurent Gillaumot (Entomologist from IPNC), Lucien Swillen (Vector Control Specialist from New Caledonia) and Dr Narendra Singh (SPC Pandemic Preparedness and Training Specialist), along with other key staff from the Mataika Laboratory, Fiji Ministry of Health. It took place at the Fiji School of Medicine’s Environmental Health Lab.
Presently all efforts are dedicated to larval indices and little work is being done on adult mosquito identification. The training covered mosquito capture using various traps; mosquito identification (adult/larvae); surveillance; and control strategies, including monitoring resistance. It improved the understanding of a number of vector borne diseases of relevance to Fiji Islands.
All 25 officers from around the country also undertook field work, calculation of vector (mosquito) indices, documentation and analysis of vector surveillance data, and implementation of appropriate mosquito control methods.