Samoa issues typhoid health alert

Friday April 07, 2017 Written by Published in Regional

NEW ZEALAND – Samoan health officials have issued a health alert, warning anyone who has been to Auckland in the past three weeks to get tested for typhoid.


The Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) on Thursday said there were now 18 confirmed cases of typhoid in the city. The day before, that figure was 16.

“There is also one probable case and a further two cases are under investigation,’’ a statement said.

“Of these, there are six people currently in hospital. Some patients have now been discharged.’’

The ARPHS notified the public of the outbreak last Friday –nine days after the first cases were notified to officials.

The ARPHS said it was continuing to monitor those at highest risk of contracting the disease and that all who were affected were members of a Samoan Assembly of God church that meets at Wesley Primary School, in Mt Roskill, every week.

The Ministry of Health in Samoa has now issued an alert in the small island nation – calling on anyone who has travelled to Auckland to come forward.

In a statement released in Samoan, Samoa’s director general for the Ministry of Health, Dr Leausa Toleafoa Take Naseri, said: “For those who have travelled to Auckland and have since arrived – particularly those who were in the suburbs of Mt Roskill, Manurewa and Blockhouse Bay – in the last two to three weeks, please make contact with the Ministry of Health for testing to ensure the safety of the public.’’

The alert also warned anyone travelling to Auckland soon to take all necessary precautions so as not to be at risk of catching the communicable disease.’’

Among the precautions advised were boiling drinking water, washing hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, making sure all areas where food is being prepared are clean and to wash hands regularly when preparing food.

Symptoms for the disease include a high fever developing over several days, headaches, muscle aches and general weakness.

Other symptoms include stomach pain, constipation and diarrhoea.

“For anyone who has had fever-like symptoms for the past five days it is paramount that you are checked as soon as possible,” the alert stated.

The family of the woman who died of the disease last week say they are upset about how the situation has been handled, in which they only understood their loved one died from typhoid when it was made public on Tuesday this week –- a day after she was laid to rest.

The Auckland District Health Board has since said medical staff did not know the woman had typhoid until later, when blood test results showed that.

ADHB chief medical officer Dr Margaret Wilsher said: “She was very unwell when she presented and it was soon apparent that she had some sort of severe infection on top of pre-existing important medical problems.

“Despite intensive care, she passed away within 24 hours.’’

Wilsher said when it became apparent the patient was going to die, the medical team ensured that family members could gather to be with her and comfort her.

“A critical-care specialist explained that all appropriate treatments had been provided and she was not expected to survive her illness,’’ she said.

“The cause of the infection –typhoid –  only became apparent on blood test as she was dying.’’

Wilsher said family members stayed with their loved one for a number of hours. There was no significant risk to those around her, Wilsher said, as the patient did not have diarrhoea.

“Even if the blood result had come back earlier, we would still have allowed the family to be present to hold and support their loved one.

“The comfort they gave to their dying relative was appropriate, medically supported and, I believe, very necessary for all.’’

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said today he was “very unhappy” at finding out about the typhoid outbreak when watching the news last Friday night, rather than through official channels.

“I am very unhappy about that aspect of it. I have received a number of apologies, I certainly don’t expect to find out about things on the TV news. That’s for sure.”

                - NZH/PNC

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