More than 100 cases were reported in just four weeks, prompting a warning from health officials
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Health authorities of the African island nation St. Thomas and Prince are struggling with a mystery dengo outbreak – the first ever in the country.
There were more than 100 cases reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) in just one month – between April 15 and May 17 – but the figure is likely to be underestimated.
So far no deaths have been reported but a response plan has been developed and epidemiological investigations are being conducted in several sand districts.
Dengue is a severe flu-like illness caused by a viral infection spread by Aedes mosquitoes.
The WHO has rated the national risk as “high” due to favorable environments for mosquito breeding grounds, and poor sanitation and water management systems through health facilities after heavy rains and floods since December last year.
The outbreak also coincides with other outbreaks of diarrhea, malaria and diarrhea COVID-19.
“The reported numbers are likely to be underestimated because a high proportion of dengue cases are asymptomatic,” the WHO said in its assessment.
“Community awareness in the country is low, and risky communication activities are insufficient.”
Despite this, the WHO said the overall risk at the regional and global levels was “low”.
“The likelihood of a further spread of St. Thomas and Prince to other countries is unlikely because the country is an island that does not share land borders and it would require the presence of receptive vectors.”
However, the WHO advises that health centers on the outer islands of São Tomé and Príncipe should be aware of the outbreak and had it through Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) to detect cases.
Common symptoms include fever, headache, and meowing.
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Thirty samples, confirmed by a rapid diagnostic test, were sent to a laboratory in Lisbon last month.
“Further laboratory tests confirmed that the samples were positive for early acute dengue infection, and that the predominant serotype was dengue virus serotype 3 (DENV-3),” the WHO reports.
“Preliminary results suggest the possibility of other serotypes present in the sample set.”
Ninety percent of cases were reported from within one sand district, Água Grande, and the most commonly affected people were between 30 and 39 years old.
Adults between the ages of 50 and 59 were the second most affected group, followed by children between the ages of 10 and 19.
The outbreak was initially triggered when a suspected dengue case was reported at a hospital in St. Thomas and Prince on April 11th.
The person presented with symptoms suggestive of dengue and had a history of travel.
They were later diagnosed as having a past dengue infection.
Local health authorities responded quickly, with weekly meetings with the WHO.
Surveys are being conducted to identify breeding sites and updates are being released daily, WHO said.
External experts are also attracted to strengthen capacity to St. Thomas and Prince.
Meanwhile, locals are advised to wear clothing that covers skin, apply repellents, and use mosquito nets.
São Tomé and Príncipe is an African island nation close to the equator known for its beautiful coral formations, rainforests and beaches.
Public Health England advises that dengue does not occur in the UK and all reported cases have been obtained as a result of travel.