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Health Officials Warn Pacific Nations on Spread of Chikungunya Virus

By Hera Hoi – EM TV Online

Chikungunya, a viral disease transmitted through infected mosquitoes, has had Pacific health experts raise concerns on the spread of the virus throughout the region.

The virus occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

It reached the Pacific region back in 2011, when there was a small outbreak in New Caledonia. However, alarms were raised when French Polynesia reported an alarming 55,000 cases since the outbreak in October last year.

ABC reports that the virus has so far killed 14 people in French Polynesia.

While there have been over 50,000 reported cases in French Polynesia, an epidemiologist with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Dr Adam Roth told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat Program  that he fears there might have been more unreported cases.

“There are likely to be cases that have a lighter symptomatology and they would not seek for consultations,” Dr Roth said.

Dr Roth also says the latest reported cases of Chikungunya have been from New Caledonia, the disease having allegedly spread via French Polynesia. Samoa’s cases have reportedly been increasing.

Due to new cases of Chikungunya in the Pacific region being mostly categorised as imported cases from countries affected by the disease, all neighbouring countries have been given sound warning.

As there’s no cure for the virus or no vaccine developed to avoid it, the treatment has been focused on relieving symptoms. Health experts advise highly on prevention methods.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says prevention and control relies heavily on reducing the number of natural and artificial water-filled container habitats that support the breeding of mosquitoes.

WHO also advises that clothing is highly recommended during outbreaks, as it would minimise exposure to mosquitos carrying the virus.

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