MCRI has developed a long and productive research collaboration with Fiji to work towards understanding how scabies affects the Fijian population. This successful collaboration in research has been translated into a working relationship with the implementation of the World Scabies Program to eliminate scabies as a national public health problem throughout the country.
Scabies is highly prevalent throughout Fiji, in 2007 a national prevalence survey found 23% of Fijians has scabies at any given time. Moreover, scabies disproportionately affects children with 45% of children aged 5-9 years old, almost one in every two children, being affected by the disease. In 2016, the Fiji Government released its annual Health Status Report revealing skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) to be the fifth most common cause of mortality within the country.
WSP works in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health through the Fijian Centre of Disease Control, P.J. Towmey Hospital and all Divisional Health Teams to implement mass drug administration to eliminate the spread of scabies throughout communities. The program works towards the establishment of a long-term program within the Ministry of Health by strengthening health system capacity to adequately monitor and manage scabies. Additionally, MCRI will work closely with the Fiji WSP Country Team to engage the community and support community health workers in rolling out the WSP and raise community awareness about scabies.
World Scabies Program Fiji Team
Front left to right - Raijeli Vuniduvu (Divisional Project Officer Northern), Aminiasi Tavui (Fiji Program Manager) and Sr Rosa Varanisese (Divisional Project Officer Western)
Back right to left - Kelera Matavesi (Project Assistant), Aminiasi Koroi (Research Officer) and Mareta Vuki (Divisional Project Officer Central/Eastern)
Integrated MDA for Scabies and Lymphatic Filariasis in the Northern Division
The MDA has started in Fiji with the Northern Division. The MDA was launched by the Minister for Health. The scabies program is integrating with the Lymphatic Filariasis Unit to administer triple therapy to address both diseases. Over 100 nurses and 300 community health workers are involved with rolling out the MDA to the 130,000 people living in the Northern Division. The MDA will run from October to December 2022. The other divisions of Fiji will receive MDA in early 2023.
Fiji Baseline Prevalence Survey
The national baseline prevalence survey was conducted in the Western, Central and Eastern divisions of Fiji from November 2021 to March 2022. Skin examiners were trained to identify suspected scabies-like lesions and impetigo in typical exposed sites on the body. Each team included a skin examiner (nurse), a data officer and a driver. 30 villages were randomly selected in the Western and Central Divisions and ten villages in the Eastern Division, which has a much smaller population. In each village 25 households were randomly selected and all households members were invited to participate in the survey. The survey teams crossed flooded rivers, took long boat rides and tolerated hot conditions to reach households in remote villages and urban areas alike to conduct skin examinations. Many of the communities warmly welcomed the WSP survey teams into their households.