Tonga declares Zika epidemic amid 265 suspected cases
Tonga has declared a Zika epidemic after confirming a number at least two people have contracted the virus and 265 could have it.
Tonga has declared a Zika epidemic after confirming at least two people have contracted the virus and 265 could have it.
Health Minister Saia Piukala says three New Zealand-based Tongans who travelled to the islands for a holiday had returned home and also tested positive.
Dr Piukala gave Koro Vaka'uta the latest figures.
SAIA PIUKALA: We have got two confirmed cases of Zika virus. We sent nine specimens and two out of those nine specimen tested positive for Zika virus. We also tested for dengue and chikungunya virus and they are all negative. There were reported three cases from New Zealand. They were Tongans who were in Tonga during the Christmas holidays and when they went back to New Zealand they got sick and they went to the hospital and got tested positive for Zika virus so there is five confirmed cases of Zika virus here in Tonga so we have declared an epidemic here in the kingdom. I know that Zika virus has been around the world since 1947 but this is the first time for Tonga to have Zika virus infection. We are still pending. We have sent 35 specimens, so we are still waiting on the result of them. So far the suspected cases of 265 suspected cases of Zika virus, based on the type of complaints that they come to the hospital with. Like the case definition of acute fever and skin rashes. Plus joint pain and headache and those flu-like symptoms. So we have got 265 suspected cases.
KORO VAKA'UTA: What is the government doing to try and minimise the impact of the Zika virus?
SP: Our public health department has done a lot of radio and television, educating and getting awareness to the public about Zika virus. The vector that transmits that disease is the mosquito. The same mosquito that carries dengue fever. We have done a lot of radio and television campaign and the government is ready to assist a national cleanup campaign to eliminate all the habitats for the mosquito and advise the public that once they have symptoms at the time of Zika virus to rest, drink a lot of water, panadol but the most important thing is the vector control. That's what the ministry has been doing now, the vector control.
KV: There was a report earlier in the week that Tupou College, one of the high schools, had closed to boarders because of fears of the spread of the virus. Any update on the situation there?
SP: The reason for closing. Out of the suspected cases, the age group commonly affected here are ages 1 to 15 years old. That's primary school and high school age group. The reason for the public health department is they just close it for one day and the school will do the cleanup and our staff will go in and do the mosquito spraying to protect students from being bitten by mosquitoes. The ministry is moving from school to school. So they address a few schools a day and then the open the next day.
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