Dengue continues to spread

Lina Herkinos from Majuro hospital’s medical records department joined with dozens of Ministry of Health and Human Services staff for a grounds cleanup around the hospital to reduce mosquito breeding sites last Saturday. Photo: Jack Niedenthal.


The first suspected cases of dengue fever were reported late last week in Majuro, as the outbreak on Ebeye Island continues. Majuro numbers continued to increased this week.

Ebeye was the focus last week of a major mosquito spraying and cleanup program to eradicate mosquito-breeding areas.

Health authorities said this week the count at Ebeye Island was 166. The numbers spiked beginning the last week of July.

But the aggressive mosquito spraying action and cleanup work on Ebeye is expected to help slow the spread, said Secretary of Health Jack Niedenthal. “Our vector people went up early in the week and they sprayed the entire island,” he said.

School was canceled for all public and private schools on Ebeye last week in the wake of the dengue outbreak. The Kwajalein Educators Association (KEA), an entity made up of Ebeye school principals, called to postpone school for the week to allow the spray team comprised of Ministry of Health, Marshall Islands Environmental Protection Authority, and Kwajalein Atoll Local Government law enforcement officials to conduct its work without risking harm to the general public.

Friday, the Ministry of Health said it had identified the first cases of dengue in Majuro, showing the virus is spreading out. By Wednesday this week, the number of suspected cases was up to 21.

Both the World Health Organization and US Centers for Disease Control have been engaged for help by the ministry, and neighboring islands are assisting as well, said Niedenthal.

“Hospital beds on Ebeye are full (so) we are sending cots from here (Majuro),” he said. The health department in Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia delivered 30 dengue test kits and the WHO has provided 500, split between Majuro and Ebeye, he added. WHO and the Red Cross have donated hundreds of mosquito nets.

With enough cases confirmed by off-island testing to prove it’s dengue, the ministry no longer needs to laboratory confirm every incoming case with dengue symptoms, said Niedenthal. “The numbers have not plateaued yet,” said Niedenthal. “They are still going up.”

In 2011, during the last outbreak of dengue in country, over 1,600 cases were seen. AT that time, the dengue was “type 4.” The version now active in RMI is “type 3.”

Read more about this in the August 23, 2019 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.