Two patients die as Chikungunya reaches Tonga

Tonga’s Ministry of Health has confirmed Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus, has for the first time known to have spread in the kingdom.

There is now a Chikungunya outbreak alert for Tongatapu with an estimate of over 500 patients reported to Vaiola Hospital a day since the disease was confirmed in which over 200 of them had the symptoms of Chikungunya, local media reported.

A number of cases of the virus had been confirmed in ‘Eua and Ha’apai, Dr Siale 'Akau'ola, the Health Director told Radio Tonga.

No signs of the virus registered in the Niuas and Vava'u has only a few, he said.

It was believed the Chikungunya first made landfall in Ha’apai before spreading to the other islands, the Health Director added.

The ministry suspected that two patients died recently were victims of the Chikungunya. However the cause of their death have yet to be confirmed, according to 'Akau'ola.

Currently, there is no treatment for chikungunya fever and the only way to prevent it is to avoid mosquito bites. It is rarely lethal, but it is painful and can cause chronic debilitating joint pain, 'Akau'ola said.

Last month the public health authorities were working to prevent what was believed to be German measles or rubella.

The measles claim was later withdrawn when ‘Akauola told Radio New Zealand it was more likely to be dengue fever, zika or another mosquito-borne virus similar to dengue.

A lab test has confirmed it was Chikungunya.

Key facts

  • Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. It causes fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.
  • The disease shares some clinical signs with dengue, and can be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue is common.
  • There is no cure for the disease. Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms.
  • The proximity of mosquito breeding sites to human habitation is a significant risk factor for chikungunya.
  • Since 2004, chikungunya fever has reached epidemic proportions, with considerable morbidity and suffering.
  • The disease occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In recent decades mosquito vectors of chikungunya have spread to Europe and the Americas. In 2007, disease transmission was reported for the first time in a localized outbreak in north-eastern Italy.

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