NEW ZEALAND ISSUES PACIFIC ISLANDS DENGUE FEVER TRAVEL ALERT

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand (August 6, 2001 – New Zealand Herald/PINA Nius Online)---A dengue fever outbreak in some Pacific island countries and territories has prompted a travel warning from New Zealand's Ministry of Health, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Since returning from Samoa this year, at least 20 Aucklanders have been diagnosed with dengue fever. Four cases were so serious that the victims had to be admitted to the hospital.

Dengue fever is a viral infection that develops after a bite from an infected mosquito. The most severe form can kill but most people only develop headache, back pain, bone and joint pain.

Ministry of Health public health programs senior adviser Dr. Doug Lush said the 20 cases contracted by travelers to Samoa, and awareness of cases from other islands, prompted a warning for anyone going anywhere in the Pacific.

He said it was just the start of the mosquito season and people needed to take extra precautions to avoid the insects.

"That doesn't mean cancel the holiday, but cover up and use mosquito repellent at all times," he told the New Zealand Herald.

Dr. Lush said most island resorts sprayed rooms and buildings to discourage mosquitoes.

Samoa has had an outbreak of the fever this year. Up to 400 people have been infected. But the news of the epidemic -- which started in April or May -- was not passed on through the usual travel warning networks, the New Zealand Herald said.

Samoan newspapers have since reported that the outbreak is under control. A doctor from the health department was quoted as saying, "Inform the public not to panic."

Dr. Marc Shaw, of the Auckland Travellers Clinic, told the newspaper it was unnerving that the Samoan health authorities had not passed on warnings of the outbreak.

Recent outbreaks in French Polynesia and New Caledonia have been well charted and monitored, he said.

The mosquito that carries dengue fever is not normally found in New Zealand.

But in April larvae and pupae from the species were discovered in a rubbish container at Freyberg Wharf in Auckland, the New Zealand Herald said.

For additional reports from The New Zealand Herald, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/ New Zealand Herald.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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