Fiji’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services, through its PCR laboratory at Mataika House in Tamavua, will soon have the capacity to carry out lab tests for the Zika virus.

Previously Fiji did not have the required lab to carry out such tests and had to send samples to Singapore, New Zealand and French Polynesia.


The lab staff at Mataika House are undergoing two weeks training with World Health Organisation (WHO) consultant Dr Dr Debbie Phillips on the Monoplex RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) and Trioplex RT-PCR.

Trioplex is a laboratory test designed to detect Zika, dengue and chikungunya.

It is understood 700 samples taken from people with Zika-like symptoms collected over the past six months would be tested at the lab.

Speaking to the Minister of Health Jone Usamate, who visited the lab Thursday, Dr Phillips, said it was important to set up a test where they could identify specifically the three viruses in the country and determine whether it’s one or more than one infection and what areas they were circulating in.

“We also have the option of doing individual tests so we can also test just for Zika, chikungunya or dengue. At the moment there’s a lot of request for dengue tests and there’s not a high number of positives, so some area we’ve seen dengue-like illnesses without the confirmation from the laboratory and we find later that it isn’t dengue — it may well be chikungunya or Zika,” she said.

“And I think to know exactly where the particular viruses are circulating is important and particularly if you see introductions to new areas. We’ve seen in other places throughout the world where it can spread exponentially.”

Dr Debbie adds by the end of the training local staff will have the capacity to test all three viruses and get the results out within a couple of hours.

“You won’t need to refer or send samples elsewhere,” she adds. SOURCE: FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS [/restrict]