Health ministry monitoring mysterious virus

Friday 23 April 2021 | Written by Emmanuel Samoglou | Published in Health, National

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Health ministry monitoring mysterious virus
The aedes aegypti mosquito is responsible for spreading a variety of viruses, including dengue, chikungunya, and Zika. 16050214

An unidentified virus is spreading amongst residents, while the dengue outbreak continues to also put stress on the healthcare system with increased hospitalisations.

Public health officials are exploring the emergence of a potentially new viral disease that’s taking hold in the country.

A number of residents have recently experienced the tell-tale symptoms of dengue fever, however testing carried out by health officials have returned negative results for the common mosquito-borne virus.

Dr Anura Jayasinghe, a public health specialist with Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health, said the ministry has inquired further into the negative cases, where blood samples from affected residents have failed to indicate the presence of dengue or other common tropical mosquito-borne diseases.

“Usually we check samples for other things like chikungunya and Zika, but recently we haven’t found any chikungunya and Zika in Cook Islands samples,” Jayasinghe said. 

“It must be another viral disease.”

Jayasinghe said a number of the cases could possibly be the result of “false negatives”, where the presence of dengue wasn’t detected through testing, however the quantity of negative tests being reported likely indicates the presence of a different virus.

Doctors and hospital clinicians have yet to inquire with Te Marae Ora’s public health unit regarding the number of negative test results, he said.

“… if we get more dengue-like symptoms and there are negatives then we’ll have to think differently,” Jayasinghe said.

“We are vigilant and if we get that information from hospital doctors, we will think about that.”

On April 1, Te Marae Ora’s public health unit reported a total of 220 suspected, probable, and confirmed cases of dengue-like illness.

And in the last 30 days, Te Marae Ora has reported a nearly 50 per cent increase in hospitalisations, from 23 to 34 cases.

The bulk of the cases are confined to Rarotonga. To date, health authorities have reported one case in Aitutaki and a single case in Mauke.

To assist public health officials during the current outbreak, Jayasinghe asked the public to continue targeting mosquito breeding sites.

“Once we identify a case, we’ll do spraying, but it will only target adult mosquitos. If breeding sites are intact, more mosquitos will come from those sites.”