The Acting Director

General of the Ministry of Health, George Taleo, has officially announced that overseas laboratory tests have confirmed cases of zika and dengue viruses have been found in Vanuatu.

To date, this is the the first ever case of zika virus recorded in Vanuatu.

The overseas tests were also positive for three cases of dengue.

These cases were confirmed from blood samples that were sent for testing before the cyclone.

According to the Department of Health, the main symptoms of zika are fever, red eyes, pain in the joints of the hands and feet, and rash, while the main symptoms of dengue are fever, severe headache, pain in the joints, and rash.

Zika is generally mild and short-lasting (up to seven days) but dengue is usually more severe and in a small number of cases can lead to hospitalisation.

The Ministry and Department of Health have advised that any person who experiences a high fever with no obvious alternative cause should approach their nearest health facility.

Malaria also remains a concern even though the ministry has made major progress over the past 10 years to reduce the number of malaria cases.

Zika and dengue viruses are both transmitted to humans by mosquitoes which bite during the day, Taleo said.

“The malaria mosquito is a different type of mosquito that bites in the evening.

“There are not yet any vaccines to prevent zika and dengue and the most effective protection is to avoid daytime mosquito bites.

“Communities can also help to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases by cleaning-up places where mosquitoes can lay their eggs.

“Empty coconut shells, empty food tins, old containers, old truck tyres are all places where water can collect and mosquitoes can lay eggs.

“Regular clean-ups around houses and villages can help to reduce mosquito numbers including imperative practice of sleeping under mosquito nets.

“The Ministry of Health routinely monitors illnesses at many different locations throughout Vanuatu to help detect any suspected disease outbreaks.

“Since Cyclone Pam, the Ministry has increased its outbreak monitoring,” Acting DG Taleo said.

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