22 Mar 2016

Zika rates in American Samoa continue to rise

10:59 am on 22 March 2016

385 people in American Samoa are suspected of having the Zika virus, according to the territory's health department.

40 pregnant women are suspected of having the mosquito-borne virus.

Since the outbreak first surfaced late last year, 83 blood samples have been sent off island for testing for mosquito-borne viruses including Zika, Dengue Fever, and Chikungunya -- which have similar symptoms.

Of the samples sent off island, 14 cases have been confirmed as Zika, including in six pregnant women.

The territory has embarked on a cleanup programme to eradicate mosquito breeding areas, and has sought federal assistance to control the outbreak.

The World Health Organisation declared Zika a global health emergency on February 1. Internationally, concern has been raised about a suspected link between the virus and two neurological disorders: microcephaly, which is associated with unusually small heads and, often, brain damage in infants; and, Guillain-Barré syndrome, in which the immune system attacks part of the nervous system.

However, those links are yet to be confirmed, but the WHO said last week that new research had strengthened the link between the virus and foetal abnormalities, and advised pregnant women to avoid travel to areas of ongoing Zika outbreaks.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs