Zika here, but undiagnosed?

By Maddison Clarey ,

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The Zika virus has taken hold in Samoa, with the country featuring on many travel warning lists around the world.

However it appears that medical professionals may have not diagnosed the virus as such because of its similarities to dengue fever and chikungunya.

The virus was reportedly first discovered in the Pacific in 2007, but the first three cases did not appear in Samoa until September last year.

However, local doctors are claiming that they have been treating patients with dengue-like viral diseases over the past few months, but the symptoms were different to dengue or even chikungunya.

“There’ve only been three cases at the hospital but I’ve seen many, many more,” said one local doctor.

“It just seemed like a viral infection of some description, similar to chikungunya but now I know it was probably Zika.”

The Ministry of Health claims that there is very little risk associated with the Zika virus here in Samoa, but the threat of potential brain defects and abnormalities in unborn children has Samoa’s neighbouring countries worried.

Both New Zealand and Australia have issued travel warnings for Samoa, encouraging pregnant women, and women who are considering getting pregnant to rethink their travel plans.

Neither High Commission is concerned about the virus outbreak in Samoa, despite the fact that at least two New Zealand travellers have cancelled their plans to visit Samoa.

The virus is spread through the Aedes mosquito, the same breed that carries the chikungunya and dengue viruses.

The Ministry of Health has begun spraying arriving airplanes and ports to prevent the spread of the virus from international visitors but the action seems redundant since the virus is already here in Samoa.

Symptoms of the virus include rash, fever, joint pain, red eyes and headaches. 

Usually lasting from a few days to a week, the virus poses very little long term health risks to average adults.

Pregnant women however are at an elevated risk, with the disease being linked to case of microcephaly (smaller head size in newborns) and brain defects.

Treatment includes rest, drinking plenty of water and taking paracetamol for fever and pain.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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