We would like to respond to your letter to the Editor of the Samoa Observer titled “About that health warning” written by W.W. It is a concern that the issue raised is not as straightforward as stated in your article.
In fact your article can mislead the public. Firstly there is no cover-up of any shortage of antibiotics as you stated. Secondly the Ministry of Health has a duty to advise the public and likewise the public has a right to know about any health event that poses a threat to human life and health.
The notice you refer to is a general public health advice to alert the public on health issues that may prove life threatening and to advocate simple preventative measures.
This is not an uncommon Ministry of Health process in informing the public on any risks to health. Obviously you have looked up Leptospirosis, and have stated an over-reaction on our part.
For your information, Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, prevalent in animals but can be transmitted to humans by direct contact with contaminated wastes mainly urine of infected animals. It is also transmitted by a vector (usually rats & rodents) to humans through contaminated urine. While treatment is straight-forward, its complications are quite fatal.
From experience in treating these patients, its consequences can be life-threatening and fatal as patients are usually presented late to the hospital. It carries a significant case fatality rate of up to 30per cent. We have four suspicious cases indicated through rapid tests with one fatality. We are awaiting confirmatory tests of our specimens sent to NZ which will take some time.
The distribution of the cases are not clustered at a certain area but are quite scattered hence the most appropriate thing is to alert and warn the public to lookout and take precautionary measures while we await a confirmatory lab diagnosis.
Considering the current Non Communicable Disease (eg. Diabetes) burden in Samoa, such an infection will obviously result in a much higher fatality rate. With the current weather, the environment for transmission of these kinds of infections are ideal hence public awareness is important We have no wish to cause panic for the general public, but to inform and advise our people accordingly as we await confirmation from the Lab.
We have a responsibility to the public as we have been tasked with their health security and we strive to do everything to achieve that Male fa’aaloalo lava,
Dr. Robert Thomsen
Ministry of Health