Maldives struggles with Chikungunya

Chikungunya, a viral fever accompanied with joint pains, is spreading throughout the Maldives. The disease was first noticed in the country in late 2006 and so far it has not been controlled.

Maldives Today accuses the government of reacting slowly to this outbreak and not taking appropriate measures to combat the disease.

The government of Maldives did not react to an outbreak of Chikungunya in Kerela state in India in October 2006. The affected areas in Kerela included Trivandrum or Thiruvananthapuram, which is the most popular Indian destination among Maldivians going there for medical treatment and vacation. Daily flights between Trivandrum and Male’ carry Indian workers and travelers and Maldivians. It may be a matter of a few days for a disease to reach the Maldives from Trivandrum. Any outbreak of a disease in that part of India should have been taken as a serious issue.

When an unusual fever started spreading in the Maldives with symptoms of Chikungunya, the government was once again slow to react.

The psychological trauma to the patients as well as the social and economic toll is heavy. There is hardly a family without a patient suffering from Chikungunya. An epidemic can affect the productivity of a country and at this moment Chikungunya and dengue is doing that to the Maldives.

Some schools have been forced to close because of the illness. Even though the disease is not generally fatal, some recent deaths in Maldives, especially among elderly, is thought to be have been caused by Chikungunya, according to a Minivan News report.

14 people have been reported dead in Hinnavaru, Lahiviyani Atoll. The presumed cause is chikungunya viral fever, which has been spreading rampantly through the Maldives since December. Sources from the island say most of the victims died within the last three weeks and are between 55 and 80 years old.

“So many people are dying, but the Health Ministry is not taking any substantial action…At present there are around 300 to 400 people affected in this island itself,” a source from Hinnavaru, who wanted to remain anonymous, said.

Some high level politicians also reportedly contracted the disease, including the finance minister. There are also rumours that the health minister, who is the brother-in-law of the president, contracted Chikungunya, but flew to Singapore for treatment. High level politicians usually travel to expensive medical facilities in countries such as Singapore while the ordinary folk have a hard time raising finance if they need to travel abroad for treatment not available in the country.

The two understaffed and ill-equipped hospitals in the capital Male’, are currently full, and are not hospitalizing any patients.

Daily paper Haveeru reports that the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives has also criticized the government for taking the disease too lightly.

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has criticized the government for taking the recent outbreak of Chikungunya and other viral diseases in the country too lightly. In an interview given to Haveeru Daily, the Commission’s president, Ahmed Saleem, said that the two hospitals in Male were filled to capacity and that patients who went there for treatment weren’t able to get the hospitals’ service because of that.

Mr Saleem himself had been recently affected by Chikungunya according to Minivan News.

The government has been hit hard by the epidemic, with some senior government members contracting the fever. Finance Minister, Gasim Ibrahim and President of the Human Rights Commission, Ahmed Saleem, both fell ill, as well as scores of civil servants.

Meanwhile MaldivesHealth blog writes that there are rumours of a ‘miracle boy’ in Thulhaadhoo island in Baa Atoll of Maldives, who is possessed by a spirit, and can perform miracles such as curing Chikungunya patients.

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