Ryan Dagur, Jakarta – The Catholic-majority nation of Timor-Leste is still battling a dengue outbreak that has killed dozens of people, with the number of cases soaring to more than 3,700 this year despite the government's preventive measures.
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral infection that can cause severe flu-like symptoms, which can prove deadly in some cases. It remains a serious public health problem in Timor-Leste.
According to the latest data on March 30 from the Ministry of Health, 44 deaths have been recorded, 40 of which were children below 14.
Meanwhile, the number of cases has reached 3,713 since January, with children accounting for 83.8 percent. This figure has increased sevenfold from the same period last year, when there were only 536 cases, or four times last year's 901 cases.
Capital Dili recorded the highest number of cases at 2,465, with the remainder spread across 12 other municipalities.
The ministry reminded the public to immediately go to the nearest health facility if they experience dengue symptoms.
Since early January, when cases began to soar and health facilities began to be overwhelmed, the government has been trying to bring in mosquito repellent from neighboring Australia and Indonesia. This is used to spray mosquito larvae in areas where dengue fever is spreading.
In addition, since February the government has required all government agencies and the public to carry out environmental hygiene activities every Friday.
Earlier this month, the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health also launched guidelines for clinics and health facilities to maximize the management of dengue fever patients.
Relief efforts were also carried out by the Malaysian and Philippine embassies, which earlier this month helped organize blood donations to help dengue fever patients.
Agostinha Segurado, director of health services in Dili municipality, said they are still working on mosquito larvae eradication, but the recent rain in the country is a big challenge as mosquitoes are spreading faster.
"We remain focused on breaking the chain of its spread in high-risk areas," she told reporters in Dili on March 30.
She admitted that these efforts require the contribution of all people, so they also asked community leaders and religious leaders to help mobilize people to pay attention to environmental cleanliness.