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Samoa dengue outbreak focused in Apia & NW Upolu

dengue mosquito

Apia, SAMOA — Nearly 400 dengue cases have been recorded in Samoa from November last year to 12 May and currently the majority of cases are those aged under 10 and over 60.

RNZ Pacific is reporting Samoa's Ministry of Health announced 62 new cases of dengue-like illness, and 36 lab-confirmed cases, from 6-12 May.

There were 68 cases of dengue-like illness for the previous week.

Dengue cases are densely distributed in the Apia urban area and North West of Upolu.

There have been no dengue-related deaths in this outbreak, and the majority of cases are those aged under 10 and over 60.

From November 2023 to May 12, a total of 378 lab-confirmed dengue cases have been recorded in Samoa.

The public is advised to remove stagnant water sources around the house to ensure mosquito breeding sites are eliminated.

They are also being asked to wear long clothing, sleep with mosquito nets, and use repellents.

Meanwhile, a Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) preliminary report showed a total of 7.3 million suspected cases of dengue worldwide, from weeks 1 to 17 this year.

About half of these — 3.3 million — were laboratory confirmed.

PAHO said this figure represents an increase of 243 percent compared to the same period in 2023.

More than 3,000 people have died.

In the meantime, New Zealanders travelling to Samoa are encouraged to have comprehensive insurance, as the country deals with a dengue fever outbreak.

Samoa News notes that to date, American Samoa has not released a public health notice re dengue warning to travelers to and from Samoa.

What is dengue fever?

Dengue is a mosquito-borne, viral infection that is common in warm, tropical climates, according to the WHO. (The mosquitos that transmit dengue aren't present in New Zealand, in large part thanks to its relatively cold temperatures.)

Infection is caused by any one of four serotypes, or closely-related dengue viruses. Infection with one gives long-term protection from that serotype, but can make infections from the other serotypes more serious.

A blood test is required for diagnosis.

Most cases are mild, though some can result in hospitalisation or even death.

Symptoms develop from four days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Patients often experience a fever, headaches, muscle and joint pain, nausea and vomiting, a rash, and fatigue. As the disease progresses, some also suffer from respiratory distress, bleeding from the nose and gums, accompanied by a rapid drop in blood pressure leading to shock. This last symptom is potentially fatal.

Roughly five percent of infections result in serious complications. And hospital care reduces fatality rates to less than one percent in most affected countries.

But outbreaks, which tend to have seasonal patterns, can cause extreme stress on health systems.