Two more cases of Zika virus have been confirmed in Canterbury.
Two Ashburton women, both aged in their 30s, were confirmed as having the Zika virus this month after visiting Samoa.
Their diagnosis followed North Canterbury woman Piliniuote Fifita, 40, who contracted the virus this year after visiting Tonga.
Canterbury medical officer of health Dr Ramon Pink said women who were pregnant or planning to get pregnant should cancel all travel plans to the areas where an outbreak had been confirmed.
“Just don’t go,” he said.
“We know it can affect babies structurally in they can have smaller heads but research is still under way as to what other effects the infection has on babies.”
The disease was commonly transmitted by mosquitoes and symptoms included fever, rash, and joint pain.
Zika had been declared a worldwide epidemic by the World Heath Organisation, and had been confirmed in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands, Puerto Rico and Brazil. Pink advised men with pregnant partners to be careful if they travelled to infected places, as the disease could potentially be transmitted by saliva and semen.
“There’s a risk, but the most common way the infection is transmitted is via mosquito bite.”
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielagaoi has moved to set the record straight regarding reports about the Zika virus in Samoa.
During a press conference, Tuilaepa who is also Minister of Tourism, says media reports about the Zika virus have had a huge affect on tourism since the reports went out.
Accompanying Tuilaepa was Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr. Leao Tuitama at the conference who stated that tourists are encouraged to visit Samoa without the need to be alarmed about Zika.
The Prime Minister says the fear-mongering tactics being used to scare people away from Samoa must stop.
“Yes we did have three positive cases of Zika Virus, but that was last year,” he admitted. “There was one confirmed case in September and two in October and that was it. There are no recent cases.”
The Minister of Tourism said the foreign media have made it seem like there is an outbreak of Zika in Samoa.
“These reports are causing problems for tourists,” he said. “There must be someone who is behind these reports so that tourists will not choose Samoa as a place to come and visit and spend their holidays.” Tuilaepa said these reports are having a major impact on local businesses, especially the ones relying on tourism dollars.
Minister Tuitama agrees and noted that there could be a motive behind these reports, however he’s unclear as to what those motives are.
“All we know is that these reports are scaring the people who want to visit our country. These reports are wrong and that is something the government is trying to do to ensure that our country is free from all of these accusations.”