Prevention is always better than cure

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The discussion about the recent typhoid outbreak in Auckland, which led to the death of a Samoan woman there, was largely muted on these shores.

We say this because although there was the occasional report here and there about the possible connections – if there was any – between the Samoans affected in Auckland and back here, the message from the local health authorities was relatively reassuring. 

That was there is no need to panic and that everything was under control.

Of course when things like the outbreak in Auckland happened, it’s natural to expect people to panic. 

Who wouldn’t when it’s happening to our own people? And although this is a question that has yet to be answered, what if the woman actually got it from Samoa?

And so it was understandable that a senior lawyer had written to the Prime Minister to express her concerns, reminding about the consequences of being ignorant about such diseases. 

In a letter, dated 6 April 2017, New Zealand-based Samoan lawyer, Leuluaiali’i Olinda Woodroffe, wrote to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, urging him to act immediately to avoid the outbreak reaching epidemic proportion in Samoa like it did with the Spanish flu.

 “I am seriously concerned about a possible outbreak of typhoid amongst Samoans including Samoans in Samoa who may have come to New Zealand to attend the funeral and returned without knowing that they are infected,” she said.

 “Even if no one came from Samoa, we have people travelling to and from New Zealand to Samoa, and some Samoans who are now infected may bring the disease to Samoa.” 

Leuluaiali’i went on to accuse the Auckland Regional Public Health Service Clinic of being negligent.

 “In my view, there has been a clear negligent act by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service Clinic in not letting the members of the family of the woman who died; and in not letting members of the church that she had her funeral service at; and in not informing the public to be vigilant and take extra care, because there is now an outbreak of typhoid, which is serious. 

We can deal with this issue later.

 “Suffice to say, however, that my call is to alert you of a possible outbreak of typhoid in Samoa, and invite you to alert and inform people of Samoa and the medical profession in Samoa to be on alert, to be vigilant and seek help immediately to prevent the spread of this serious disease in Samoa. 

 “Prevention is better that cure. We do not wish to see an outbreak, as Samoa experienced in the past with the Spanish flu.”

We don’t need to remind you about the devastation caused by the Spanish flu. And although some people might say that Leuluaiali’i was overreacting, she had a valid point and her concern is a legitimate one.

It is always better to err on the side of caution. 

Now the Director General of the Ministry of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, immediately reassured the nation there is nothing to worry about.

Leausa said they had written to the New Zealand I.H.R. Focal Point for details on the deceased Samoan woman but they have yet to receive any information.

 “We haven’t seen any reports on the deceased travel history or any documentation of her travel to Samoa before we can link it to contracting typhoid while here in Samoa. 

 “Even now we don’t have a name to start off with. So we need more facts before we can comment whether she got the disease while travelling to Samoa or to another place.”

That was some two weeks ago. It would be interesting to find out the latest developments – especially if the woman had travelled to Samoa and whether she was in contact with people who have since returned to Samoa.

In the meantime, Leausa and the Ministry of Health had used the opportunity issue a general warning for Samoan people travelling to New Zealand especially to the affected areas where the outbreak has occurred.

 “Those who have been treated were from Mt Roskill, Manurewa and Blockhouse Bay, at this stage,” he said. “We are not sure of the scope of the outbreak so extra precaution should be exercised when travelling to these affected areas.”

But how can we protect ourselves? 

 “Basic hand washing, good personal hygiene, drinking clean & safe water is the best prevention and protection.

 “Typhoid was spread primarily through water and food but could be spread person to person.”

Typhoid is a serious illness and it is potentially fatal. 

 “Symptoms include a high fever developing over several days, headaches, general weakness and muscle aches. Stomach pain and constipation are also common (particularly in children), but some people get diarrhea.”

So there you go folks, it’s always best to be well informed.

Have a safe weekend Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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