Fiji has a dengue fever outbreak: Should tourists worry?

Empty deck chairs loook out to sea at a resort on Fiji's Coral Coast some 100kms west of Suva Dec. 9, 2006.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Popular tourist destination Fiji is grappling with its worst outbreak of dengue fever in 16 years.

But local authorities say it’s no cause for alarm for beachgoers.

Government spokeswoman Sharon Smith Johns said most cases have been reported near the capital, Suva and in inland areas. There have been no outbreaks around the major resorts on the island of Denarau and the Coral Coast, she added.

The Pacific island nation has seen 2,589 confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne virus since the outbreak began in November, officials said Wednesday. Two males, aged 17 and 35, have died. 


Authorities have been spraying insecticide across the country to try and eradicate mosquito-breeding areas and have started a public health campaign to remind people to clean out water containers, Johns added.

Fiji's economy relies heavily on tourists visiting its idyllic beaches. Britain's government last week noted the outbreak on its travel advisory website.

Dengue fever, also known as “break-bone fever,” is a viral infection that causes flu-like symptoms like fever and joint pain, and sufferers can occasionally develop fatal complications. Treatment usually involves rest and rehydration, with those badly affected sometimes put on an intravenous drip.

Smith Johns said the weather in Fiji has been very warm with little rain, providing ideal conditions for mosquitoes to breed.

"The hospitals have been very busy, all the doctors have had their leave cancelled," she said.

Fiji's last major outbreak of dengue fever was in 1998, when more than 8,000 people contracted the disease, she said. The country has been working with international health agencies to try and stanch the latest outbreak, she said.

Meanwhile, nearby New Caledonia has reported an outbreak of a closely related disease, Zika fever. A U.S. travel advisory says 64 cases have been confirmed in the French territory.

Last April, a study found about 390 million cases of dengue occur each year, though about two-thirds of those people have only mild illness and don't need medical attention. Those numbers were nearly four times higher than earlier estimates of about 50 to 100 million annual cases.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to prevent dengue, use repellent on your skin while indoors or out. When possible, wear long sleeves and pants for additional protection.