The Ministry of Health has confirmed “four suspicious cases” of a bacterial infection disease that has yet to be given a name.
The disease was the subject of a public health alert issued last week.
The cases were confirmed by the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Health, Tagaloa Dr. Robert Thomsen, in response to questions from the Samoa Observer.
Asked how the Ministry could warn members of the public about a disease that they have not named, Tagaloa said the process is a lot more complicated than people think.
For example, he said the Ministry of Health is awaiting the result of test of specimens sent to New Zealand, 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,” he wrote (see letter page 13).
“Considering the current Non Communicable Disease (eg. diabetes) burden in Samoa, such an infection will obviously result in a matter higher fatality rate.
“With the current weather, the environment, the transmission of these kinds of infections are ideal hence public awareness is important.”
According to Tagaloa 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 advise to alert the public on health issues that may prove life threatening and to advocate simple preventative measures,” he said.
“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 and rodents) to humans through contaminated urine.”
Furthermore he explained that 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 30%.”
The Acting C.E.O. assures that Health did not intend to cause panic for the general public but to inform and advise accordingly as they 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.”
Last week, the Ministry of Health issued a warning about a potentially deadly disease spread through the urine of infected animals.
“The Ministry of Health wishes to warn the public of an infectious disease spread through the urine of infected animals which carry these bacteria,” the alert reads. “These animals include pigs, cats, dogs and rodents such as rats. The disease may lead to death.”
According to the Ministry, humans can become infected through contact with water, soil or food contaminated with the urine of infected animals.
“It is advised that the public take preventive measures to minimize the risks of becoming infected by;
• Keeping all food and water for consumption covered securely to prevent risks of contamination.
• Ensuring that protective clothing, gloves and foot ware are always worn by those exposed to risks of infection through contaminated water or soil.
• Washing hands with soap and water before preparing food and after working outside.
• Ensuring that all drinking water is boiled.
• Avoiding swimming in rivers or areas where recent flooding has occurred.
• Ensuring proper rubbish and waste water disposal to avoid rat and other rodent infestations.”