16 Apr 2014

Tonga's Ministry of Health confirms chikungunya virus

4:31 am on 16 April 2014

The Ministry of Health in Tonga has confirmed an outbreak of chikungunya virus, saying up to 3000 people have been infected with the mosquito-borne virus.

Its director of health, Siale 'Akau'ola, says it is the first time the country has seen an outbreak of the viral disease and the ministry is taking advice from the World Health Organisation and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

Dr 'Akau'ola says the virus has spread quickly but is not causing any major health problems apart from persistent joint pain in older people.

However, he says there are also suspected cases of dengue fever, which are of concern.

"For the most serious cases, we believe those were caused by dengue virus rather than chikungunya. Unfortunately we have not had any confirmation from the reference laboratories about the dengue serotype but we are not relaxing our look out for possible co-infection of dengue."

Siale 'Akau'ola says two children are likely to have died of dengue fever.