The Ministry of Health has urged the public to be vigilant and look out for anyone with the symptoms of Meningococcal disease.
The symptoms for the Meningococcal disease include sudden high fever and severe persistent headaches.
Dr. Tagaloa Robert Thomsen, the A.C.E.O. of Health Service Performance and Quality Assurance – Medical and Allied Division, made the appeal recently during an interview with the Samoa Observer.
He said in December last year the Ministry was alerted to three suspected cases, which later turned to be just two cases which were treated promptly in the hospital.
“But then so far no new cases, it was only in the beginning of December last year that we had cases and it was fortunate that there were no fatalities because this particular disease has a high fatality rate and can go as high as 50-60 per cent if not treated,” he said.
“At the moment it is still an alarming disease in Samoa in terms of it being one of our top 13 diseases that are under surveillance — it is in our syndromic surveillance board — meaning they have to be reported within 24 hours, if suspected or come across by doctors.”
Dr. Tagaloa said even if treated, the fatality rate can go as high as 25 per cent.
“The earlier they present, the quicker the treatment and better the outcomes for Meningococcal disease because the disease spreads through immediate contact.
The problem with meningococcal bacteria is its present at the back of the throat, as a normal flora of up to 20-30 per cent of the population will have that bacteria sitting at the back of their throat.
“It just sits there, not harmful but now and then, reasons unknown it just flares or burst — and when that happens it gets into the blood system, it will cause Meningococcal bacteremia,” he added.
The Meningococcal meningitis is more fatal than Meningococcal bacteremia, Dr. Tagaloa added, but between the two, the Meningococcal bacteremia can quickly progress to the fatal Meningococcal septicemia.
“Usually when that purple rash starts, the fatality rate jumps up higher, which is why preventions have always been better than cure — and so the public should be careful and if possible try and avoid crowded places. Do not share drinks, wash your hands thoroughly before eating, if coughing — please use a handkerchief.”