23 May 2019

Tanzania: Go for Expert Guide in Handling Dengue Fever, Public Advised

MEMBERS of the public were yesterday warned against relying on distorted reports on treatment of dengue fever, amid advice to pursue professional information from reliable sources.

The Chief Medical Officer, Prof Muhammad Kambi told the 'Daily News' that there is no specific medication for the viral disease but treatment was given on associated symptoms like high fever and dehydration.

"Dengue fever is a mosquito- borne tropical disease caused by dengue virus...it's difficult to have definitive treatment on viral diseases...what are being treated are symptoms associated with the disease like sudden high fever, severe headache associated with eye pain, joint and muscle pains," the CMO said.

He said currently people infected with dengue virus, are given paracetamol/panadol to heal fever, joint and muscle pains, advising victims to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Prof Kambi was reacting on reports making rounds on social media that extract from papaya leaves can cure dengue fever and the use of coconut oil on skin repels mosquitoes.

"One of the complications of dengue fever is that it affects blood cells and generate antibodies that destroy platelets, causing bleeding to patients... there are reports that papaya leaves can help to boost platelet counts but we don't entertain such reports, which have not been scientifically proved," Prof Kambi noted.

He dismissed reports that the use of coconut oil on skin can prevent people from mosquito bites, saying there is no scientific proof.

The CMO, however, noted that since the symptoms associated with dengue fever resemble symptoms of other diseases, it was important for people to report to health facilities for checkups and receipt of proper treatment.

He called on health service providers and citizens to understand that not every illness is dengue fever, saying it's important to undergo diagnostic tests of other illnesses before reaching groundless conclusions.

Professor Kambi further detailed that currently, the National Health Laboratory has 43 test kits with the capacity of diagnosing 430 people.

"These test kits remained after distributing 156 kits to various public health facilities in the country, the government has also placed an order of 3000 test kits with the capacity of testing 30,000 people...the aim is to ensure that our public facilities have enough test kits," he said.

Prof Kambi said the government has extended diagnostic services in Dar es Salaam and Tanga regions by increasing the number of public health facilities that are carrying out diagnostic tests from seven to 19 to ease the free of charge diagnostic tests.

Commenting on why dengue fever was not covered by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and the need for the government to provide indicative price for dengue fever testing, he said the ministry was working over the matter, asking the public to remain patient.

"We need time for now as we continue working over the matter...we also need to go through other international procedures, assess the situation and we will communicate our decision to wananchi," he said.

NHIF Public Relations Manager Angela Mziray said dengue fever was among the epidemic diseases like cholera and Ebola, which the government has set special procedures of dealing with them as per the Public Health Act, 2009.

"According to the Act, all citizens, including NHIF members will access diagnostic test services for dengue fever charge free from public health facilities, which the government has identified," Ms Mziray said.

Meanwhile, Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) has said it has not registered two drugs Carpill (carica papaya leaf extract tablets) and papaya platelets booster alleged to have the capacity of treating dengue fever.

"These drugs are not registered by TFDA, reports that they can cure dengue fever are false because their quality and efficacy have not been approved for use in the country," reads TFDA statement.

According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, as of May 16, this year, 1,901 people were reported to have been diagnosed with the fever since it was first reported in January, this year.

The disease is not new in the country for it was also reported in 2010, with 40 people affected. It has also been detected in the neighbouring Mozambique and Kenya where 100 and 30 people, respectively, were affected.

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