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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Animal-Transmitted Disease Reported In Solomon Islands
Rickettsia felis apparently present in Santa Cruz group

By Denver Newter

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, July 16, 2013) – An animal disease known as Rickettsia Felis which is connected to cat-fleas has been suspected in Santa Cruz, Temotu province, in the Solomon Islands. The disease can cause a high fever.

Speaking to the Solomon Star in Lata last week a World Health Organization (WHO) technical officer Mathew Shortus said there are patients who have been suspected of acquiring the disease.

Mr. Shortus who worked with the WHO in Honiara and ministry of health and medical services said blood samples from animals around the villages situated close to Lata station have been collected and sent over to France for analysis.

But he said they suspect the presence of disease.

"In our reports this disease is only present in Santa Cruz and not elsewhere around Solomon Islands," Mr. Shortus said.

Last week Mr. Shortus and an animal/insect expert from the Philippines kicked off a weeklong investigation on Rickettsia felis in Lata station and surrounding villages in Santa Cruz to get more details about this suspected disease.

The two experts visited villages around Santa Cruz and killed rats, cats and other animals to collect blood samples from animals to send overseas for verification.

Mr. Shortus said the investigation was carried out due as more people develop high fever.

He said although a lot of these people have undergone malaria tests their results turned negative.

"So we suspect they have may this disease," he said.

Mr. Shortus said the disease is being spread by unclean animals which lived along with the humans inside their homes and around them.

The WHO officer therefore urged people in Santa Cruz to clean their homes and surrounding and avoid keeping animals which are unclean to avoid such disease.

The province in February was hit by an earthquake and tsunami disaster and is currently going through recovery stage.

Attempts to get the permanent secretary of the ministry of health and medical services (MHMS) Dr. Lester Ross yesterday to verify this suspected disease were unsuccessful.

According to medical records the first human infection with Rickettsia felis was in 1994 from a cat flea and showed signs that were similar to the symptoms of murine typhus.

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