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Spotlight returns to mosquito-borne viral disease epidemics in the Pacific

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

While battling the Covid-19 pandemic, the Pacific islands continue fighting their long-drawn battle against epidemics from viruses spread by mosquitoes with 96 outbreaks (69 dengue outbreaks, 12 Zika virus and 15 Chikungunya) reported between January 2012 and May 2021.

The Pacific Community (SPC) today announced its partnership with James Cook University to support the Pacific’s vector surveillance efforts aimed at controlling mosquito-borne diseases across the region.

The Pacific Mosquito Surveillance Strengthening for Impact (PacMOSSI) project is funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) to support the management of the increasing number of vector-borne disease outbreaks in the region.

The PacMOSSI consortium in its philosophy of building regional networks and sharing best practices aims to reduce the burden of these diseases and to improve the wellbeing of Pacific people.

It is a partnership between Pacific Island countries and 12 international institutions working to support effective vector surveillance and control in participating countries.

PacMOSSI is focused on training on vector surveillance, capacity development, country surveillance and response plans, implementation research and ensuring that Pacific island countries and territories are sufficiently equipped and resourced.

Professor Tom Burkot said PacMOSSI will be a more comprehensive training program as a direct consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic necessitated a pivot from traditional face-to-face training to an interactive online training platform.," Burkot said.

"A consequence of this shift in training platforms is that PacMOSSI is building a more sustainable and cost-effective training platform that will be available to a wider community of vector control officers and supporting partners both at the managerial and technical officers based at the national and subnational levels.”

Dr Salanieta Saketa, SPC’s senior epidemiologist, said SPC will continue to provide technical support and guidance to Pacific islands with a focus on strengthening epidemiological and vector surveillance and capacity development in entomology and mosquito surveys as part of the project on Strengthening the Services of the Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network funded by AFD.

“We are currently developing entomology modules in collaboration with the PacMOSSI consortium, and we will be providing training to all PICTs over the next two years. Due to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic both online and face-to-face course content are being developed," Saketa said.

"Additionally, we recently launched, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), a manual on surveillance and control of aedes mosquito vectors in the Pacific that has been well received and will serve as a reference material for these training," she added.

Saketa noted that while Covid-19 pandemic is the imminent public health threat impacting all islands, mosquito-borne diseases remain huge health and socioeconomic threat in the region.

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