A five-year-old boy died from dengue fever on Sunday as the spread of the mosquito-borne disease continues unabated with unusual rainfall caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon.
The child was in critical condition when he taken to the Gaaf Alif Villingili hospital and died while undergoing treatment. His death marks the fifth fatality from dengue this year.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) raised the alarm in June after three people died from dengue, including a construction worker, a pregnant woman, and a seven-month-old infant.
Schools were shut down for a month while hundreds of civil servants and volunteers were mobilised in an awareness campaign to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds.
The Maldives is currently experiencing unusually high rainfall in the northern and central atolls due to the El Nino.
Dr Nazla Rafeeq of the HPA said some 1,364 cases of dengue have been reported as of October 17. In August, the number was at 920.
Rafeeq said bad weather and unexpected rain patterns may increase mosquito breeding. She stressed the importance of eliminating breeding sites in addition to fogging.
“People think that fogging helps kill all mosquitoes, but what they don’t know is that fogging only kills adult mosquitoes, leaving the species to increase their numbers,” she said.
She advised people to wear long-sleeved shirts and to use mosquito repellant as well as other precautionary measures to prevent mosquito breeding.
Rafeeq also advised to only take paracetamol to treat fever as other fever medicines could cause liver damage for dengue patients.
The agency previously advised the public to empty stagnant water from containers, throw trash into dustbins, and to keep containers sealed to prevent water from accumulating.
Symptoms of dengue fever include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash. Seeking medical attention is advised if a fever persists for than three days.
Dengue is now endemic in the Maldives with outbreaks every four years. Prevention and control of the illness solely depends on effective control of mosquito breeding.
A severe outbreak of dengue in 2011 saw a record high of 12 deaths. There were 2,909 reported cases of dengue that year. In 2006, 10 people died of dengue.
The HPA also warned of an outbreak of viral fever and diarrhoea in Malé. The agency advised caution in mingling with crowds, especially for children, and recommended smokers to cut down.
The HPA also recommended extra dietary precautions and suggested drinking mineralised water if a person has diarrhoea.