Suspected dengue, zika or measles outbreak in Tonga
Tonga waiting for laboratory tests results to come back from overseas, to find out what is causing a spike in people experiencing fever, rashes and aching muscles.
The Tonga Ministry of Health says it has sent blood samples to laboratories overseas to find out what is causing a spike in people experiencing fever, rashes and aching muscles.
Vaiola Hospital in Nuka'olofa says it has seen 400 patients in the last week with the symptoms, and suspects a measles outbreak is the cause.
But the Director of Health, Siale Akauola, says the first batch of tests sent overseas so it is unlikely last week's cases are either.
He told Mary Baines dengue fever, zika or another mosquito-borne virus similar to dengue is more likely to be the cause.
SIALE AKAUOLA: It's a virus causing a fever and rash kind of syndrome. But I don't think it's measles - it's neither measles nor rubella. We are still waiting for blood tests being sent overseas for further analysis.
MARY BAINES: What makes you believe it's not measles, that it's another virus?
SA: Well, the first batch that was sent overseas, they were reported back last Thursday and they were negative for both measles and german measles. So I don't think they are those infectious diseases.
MB: Is there any idea what kind of virus it is?
SA: That's what we are waiting for. Because although we have had confirmation tests for dengue, those were based on quick-method tests that were sent to us from the regional office in Suva. Some of the samples will be sent to Australia, and part will be sent to French Polynesia - those are the regional-based laboratories. So they will do further tests for other viruses. I think high on the list, of course, dengue, and the other one is there's a zika virus outbreak that is going on in Cook Islands and Tahiti at the moment, and there's suspicion that maybe it could be that virus. But of course the other non-specific reaction to other viruses of course is still there.
So we haven't actually got any confirmation for the main virus causing the fever and rash outbreak that is happening at the moment, apart from those positive dengue cases that were confirmed. So if it turns out that it is still dengue, then I think thankfully most of the cases we are seeing have been fairly mild. I don't think there has been any major hemorrhagic dengue seen clinically. So whatever the virus is that's causing this outbreak it has been relatively mild so far, as far as I know.
MB: I understand that the 400 cases were at Vaiola Hospital, so has there been other cases around Tonga or just in that area?
SA: I think it's been in other islands, but like I said it hasn't been causing very significant illness apart from a short bout of fever, lots of body aches especially in the small joints of the hands and feet, and this rash that comes on a few days after the onset.
MB: When will these tests come back from overseas?
SA: Well I'm still waiting for the laboratory. The laboratory people they have sent some the last couple of weeks actually, so I'm not sure why it's taking them so long for the overseas referral hospital to come up with something. We will get some information maybe later on during this week. We have been continuing doing other public health programmes to stop mosquitos from breeding, advising people not to be bitten by mosquitos and of course not going around at all the hours of the day and night, congregating around in places where they can be susceptible to mosquito bites. Because we suspect whatever this virus is, it's being distributed by mosquitos, similar to dengue.
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