PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (AP) — The number of confirmed cases of dengue fever doubled in the month following the deadly Sept. 29 tsunami that inundated this U.S. territory in the South Pacific.
Dr. Aloiamoa Anesi, chief medical officer at LBJ Tropical Medical Center, said American Samoa's only hospital in October confirmed 62 cases and the territory's first two deaths of 2009 from the mosquito-borne disease.
"This is a definite increase from September figures (27 confirmed cases) as predicted with post-tsunami outdoor living for a lot of affected villagers," Anesi said.
"The rainy days we have mean more breeding places for mosquitoes as we still have a lot of debris after the tsunami disaster," he added.
Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, there were 373 confirmed cases of dengue in American Samoa.
Dengue causes joint pain, high fevers, nausea and a rash. In severe cases, it causes internal bleeding and can lead to death. The virus is most commonly spread by mosquitoes that have contracted it after biting infected humans.
The World Health Organization's Web site says the incidence of dengue has grown dramatically in recent decades.
Some 2.5 billion people, or two-fifths of the world's population, are now at risk from dengue, according to WHO, which estimates there may be 50 million dengue infections worldwide every year.
Meanwhile, health officials also reported a rise in leptospirosis, a bacterial disease spread by water contaminated with the urine of rats, dogs and other animals.
"We are seeing more cases of leptospirosis, again as a result of outdoor living conditions since the tsunami," Anesi said.
Eleven of 22 suspected cases tested positive in September.
"In October, we tested 34 and found 19 positives," said Anesi, who noted that most of the cases involved people from shoreline villages, some of which were severely damaged by the tsunami.
The tsunami, spawned by a magnitude-8.3 earthquake, killed 34 people in American Samoa, 183 in Samoa and nine in Tonga.