13 Sep 2004

Up to 16 thousand ill with influenza in Fiji

11:42 am on 13 September 2004

A mystery strain of influenza has hit Fiji making more than 16,000 people ill.

The Daily Post reports that health authorities have not been able to identify the bug, which is highly contagious.

A spokesman for the heath ministry, Dr Joe Korovueta, says the new agent has been spreading for the past few weeks and has symptoms of sore throat, cough and fever with some people experiencing vomiting and diarrhoea too.

The minister for labour, Kenneth Zinck, says the number of sufferers is alarming.

Mr Zinck has asked employers to allow sick workers time off, because if they are under pressure to report for work, there will be enormous losses in productivity through the spread of the illness.

Mr Zinck says many workers earn only low wages and need to come to work for the money.

He has asked employers to provide paid sick leave instead.