2 Feb 2016

Lack of zika awareness in American Samoa

9:48 am on 2 February 2016

There are worries over a lack of awareness being raised about suspected zika cases in American Samoa, and its possible link to severe birth defects.

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Photo: AFP

The mosquito-borne disease has been linked to thousands of severe birth defects in Brazil, although there is no definitive proof zika was the cause.

Our American Samoa correspondent Monica Miller said a woman diagnosed with zika last week was told by a LBJ doctor that up to six people a day were being diagnosed with the virus.

She said the woman, who did not want to be named, felt there was not enough awareness about the possible effects on pregnant women and their babies.

Ms Miller said parents and teachers had also made mention about awareness efforts.

"They're comparing this to when there was a dengue outbreak and there was a lot of visits at schools, and presentations made by health authorites. Also, just the mobilising of the whole territory in cleaning up the place."

Ms Miller said while there were lots of suspected cases, the health department said there were no confirmed cases.

American Samoa needs to send suspected zika cases to Hawaii, where labs will differentiate zika from other common mosquito spread diseases like dengue and chikungunya.

In a Health Department statement, it said it was monitoring the possible presence of the virus, and stated that in rare cases zika is linked to birth abnormalities.

The Pacific Community said according to information available to it, no Pacific country had reported confirmed cases of the zika virus infection so far this year.

The SPC said zika virus infection could only be confirmed by a laboratory diagnosis, and the Pacific Islands overall had very limited capacity for such testing.

Zika symptoms are mild, causing a low fever, joint pain, headaches, a rash and conjunctivitis.