DENGUE RAISES CONCERN IN AMERICAN SAMOA

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Displaced residents exposed to mosquitoes

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Dec. 15, 2009) - LBJ Medical Center yesterday released statistics that show, while confirmed dengue cases decreased slightly in November compared to October, dengue is still present in American Samoa along with leptospirosis.

According to the data released by LBJ chief medical officer Taulapapa Dr. Aloiamoa Anesi, there were 85 people tested for dengue in November and 46 cases came back confirmed.

This compared to October with 96 tested and 62 confirmed; and in September, 74 tested and 27 confirmed.

"There is still a high prevalence for dengue fever...in the last two months," said Taulapapa responding to media inquiries for the statistics and comments. "Our people are still living in tents since the Tsunami, being exposed to mosquito bites."

"We are still getting a lot of rain resulting in more breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Therefore it is still very relevant now as before to keep practicing the 3-Ds as precautionary measures," he said.

The 3-Ds: Drain standing water, Dress properly and use products with Deet to keep mosquitoes from biting.

So far in 2009, the month of February still had the highest number of confirmed cases at 85, followed by 80 in January, before they dropped drastically from March to July, and then edged higher after the Sept. 29 disasters.

Taulapapa also released yesterday the statistics for leptospirosis with 20 tested and eleven found positive. He explained that Leptospirosis is spread through the urine of domestic animals like dogs and pigs and rodents.

"Living in close proximity with our domestic animals increases the risks and we must be vigilant in protecting ourselves," he said. "Adequate and safe water supply is essential to our protection. Rain water can easily be contaminated by rats if caught from our roofs."

In October, 34 cases were tested and 19 came back positive.

As for H1N1, or swine flu, he said 24 were tested in November and three cases of "rapid test" came back positive.

"The rapid tests for H1N1 done at LBJ are unreliable but it takes a long time before confirmatory results are received from our reference laboratory in Honolulu [where the specimens are send]," he said. "Therefore more emphasis is put on the clinical presentations of the patient and the physicians are given guidelines for starting treatment, especially those in high risk groups, early without confirmatory tests."

The swine flu vaccination program is well underway, with two priority groups already given shots, which are health and medical personnel, as well as the staff at DOH and LBJ; and pregnant women.

Yesterday was the start of the vaccination for the next group, which is children six months and up and young adults up to 24-years old.

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