Jakarta on alert as dengue fever claims over 100 lives across Indonesia

A worker sprays insecticide with a fogging machine to eradicate mosquitoes in a residential area in Bintaro, South Tangerang, on Jan 24, 2019. PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST

JAKARTA - Jakarta is on alert as cases of dengue fever have surged in recent weeks, claiming more than 100 lives across Indonesia since the start of the year.

The country's Health Ministry said Monday (Jan 28) more than 9,600 people in 372 cities and regencies have been struck by the mosquito-borne disease as of last weekend, with four regions - Kupang and West Manggarai regency in East Nusa Tenggara, Kapuas regency in Central Kalimantan and North Sulawesi province - declaring a health emergency.

Capital city Jakarta has not recorded any fatalities but saw about 430 cases in the first three weeks of 2019, nearly four times the 111 cases recorded in the same period last year.

Authorities said the dengue outbreak is due to the rainy season, and that efforts will be made to ramp up vector control, or mosquito eradication, by fogging, covering drains and other methods to stave off mosquito breeding.

Jakarta's health agency chief Widyastuti said on Monday that as of Sunday, the city of over 10 million people has seen 613 cases but no deaths from dengue.

For the full month of January last year, the city witnessed only 198 cases, much lower than in January 2017, when cases numbered 665.

"We've declared this 'alert' status, which means that if we do nothing, the figure will continue to climb," Ms Widyastuti told reporters in a briefing on Monday.

She attributed this year's outbreak to the increased humidity from the severe rainy season. Heavy rains are forecast to continue across several regions in the country, including Jakarta, until the end of January.

Jakarta recorded over 3,300 dengue cases with one fatality in 2017 and nearly 3,000 cases with two fatalities in 2018.

Ms Widyastuti said that the health agency has stepped up efforts to destroy mosquito breeding grounds, including burying, draining and covering objects that may store water, spraying larvicide and deploying a 30,000-strong team of volunteers to check for mosquito larva across various locations in the city, including at schools.

The agency has also raised its surveillance of areas where dengue fever has struck, using online data reported by more than 160 hospitals and community health centres in the city, and carrying out fogging to kill adult mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus and break their breeding cycle.

Last week, Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan voiced his concern over the dengue outbreak, calling the increase in cases "a serious threat" to the capital.
"This is very important. We have already instructed all health-related working units and jumantik (volunteer mosquito larvae controllers) to control the vectors of dengue fever," he was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post.

He added that his office is drafting a gubernatorial directive on how the outbreak should be handled and a map showing the location of dengue cases to curb the viral infection.

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