Dengue fever threat looming over Cyclone Gita-hit Tonga

Health officials in Tonga fear there will be another surge in cases of dengue fever, after Cyclone Gita lashed the country.

Even before the storm tore through on Monday night, the island nation was trying to contain an outbreak of the disease - but heavy rain in the capital is only compounding the problem.

In Kolomotu'a, a district of Tonga's capital Nuku'alofa, roads have become rivers, and broken homes left marooned.

But look closely into the floodwaters and it's easy to spot another looming threat - mosquito larvae - and there are hundreds of them.

"Before we experienced the cyclone, we experienced a dengue fever outbreak here in Tonga," Public Health Chief Medical Officer Reynold Ofanoa told Newshub.

"There's a risk with the heavy rainfall that has been experienced by the country for those number of cases to increase."

Fifteen-year-old Tame Tupou's family home has been flattened. His belongings, and those of his younger sisters, are wet and ruined.

But they are just things, according to Tame, whose real concern is "no food".

Currently he and his five siblings are only eating bread, and sleeping under a sheet of plastic. It provides basic protection from the rain and heat, but not from mosquitoes.

"When we were sleeping at night and when we don't have any mosquito dresser, the mosquito comes."

Dengue fever claimed the life of a 12-year-old girl last month and health officials say it's important people empty any old bottles, containers or tyres which could collect water and become breeding sites.

Power is still out in many parts of Nuku'alofa, which means drinking water pumps are not functional.

"There is also a risk of sanitation issues that may have negative impacts like diarrhoea diseases," Ms Ofanoa says.

There are a myriad of challenges and the message is clear - take precautions, such as boiling water - to avoid further misery.


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