Fiji: Tourists face little risk in dengue outbreak

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Fiji is grappling with its worst outbreak of dengue fever in 16 years, but authorities say tourists visiting tropical beaches face little risk.

Health officials in the Pacific island nation said Wednesday there have been 2,589 confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne virus since the outbreak began in November. 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, said government spokeswoman Sharon Smith Johns.

She 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.

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 is a viral infection that causes flu-like symptoms, 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.

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