The 10th Pacific Mini Games was held in Vanuatu from 4-15 December, bringing together thousands of athletes and visitors from across the region. While the public focus was on the incredible performances on the field, behind the scenes a team of trained public health surveillance officers from Vanuatu Ministry of Health, with support from the Pacific Community (SPC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), were monitoring the health of athletes and audiences.
Director of Public Health in Vanuatu, Len Tarivonda, highlighted the essential role of his team saying, ”The surveillance officers performed a very vital role in assuring the health of everyone present during the games via an enhanced surveillance system. They carried out their responsibility with exceptional dedication, cooperation and professionalism, and we are very grateful to WHO and SPC for assisting us to prepare them well for this task through the Postgraduate Certificate in Field Epidemiology programme courses and the careful pre-games planning”.
Each day of the games, data and information related to ten syndromes (signs and symptoms of infectious diseases) was collected from four health facilities situated in strategic locations: Vila Central Hospital, Neil Thomas Ministries Health Facility, Korman Stadium and the Central School Games Village.
Data analysis and daily situation reports showing trends of these syndromes and other infectious diseases were discussed with the Pacific Mini-Games Health Cluster for prompt interventions. Key preventive messages on good hand hygiene, cough etiquette, food safety, protective measures against mosquito bites, proper use of condoms and healthy lifestyles were among the health promotion activities carried out throughout the event.
Between 28 November and 14 December, more than 4100 people attended the four health facilities and 1055 patients (25%) with one or more of the 10 syndromes under surveillance reported. Influenza-like-illness was the most common with 715 cases recorded, followed by watery diarrhoea (291 cases).
Laboratory investigations identified the presence of rotavirus in two stool samples taken from Ni-Vanuatu patients. With technical support from the Pasteur Institute of New Caledonia, Dengue serotype 2 was also identified in one patient from one of the Games’ delegations. Each patient received proper treatment and advice to avoid further transmission of the diseases.
Public health officials across the Pacific were briefed on the surveillance status through daily posting of the reports on PacNet, the communication platform of the Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network.
The enhanced surveillance system will continue for another week after the closing of the Mini-Games to ensure that any public health threat or event is monitored and prompt remedial actions are taken.
Financial support for this initiative was provided by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the German Development Bank (KfW).
Christelle Lepers, SPC Surveillance Information and Communication Officer, christellel [at] spc.int
SPC, in collaboration with regional partners, has provided support for enhanced health surveillance for mass gatherings in the Pacific since 2012.
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