Mysterious illness: ‘No threat to public’; Influenza ruled out as cause of death

Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete. Picture: FT FILE/SUPPLIED

THE deaths last week of American couple David and Michelle Paul poses no threat to the public, says Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete.

He gave the assurance in the face of growing public speculation and reports into the sudden and unexpected tragedy.

Responding to queries whether there were more people admitted for similar symptoms, Mr Waqainabete said investigations were still continuing into the case of the couple’s death.

“While the investigation into the cause of death for the couple continues, based on current information, there is no threat to the public at large,” he said in an email response to this newspaper.

A similar statement was also sent from the Fiji Police Force which is working with the ministry on the incident.

Police spokeswoman Ana Naisoro said the issue of more people being admitted would have to be confirmed by the Ministry of Health.

She said Police were only involved in investigating the death of the US couple.

The Nadi resort which the couple had been holidaying at has not responded to claims some staff members were under observation for working in the same vicinity where the couple stayed.

Meanwhile, in a statement yesterday, the Health Ministry said influenza had been ruled out as the cause of death.

“Investigations into the cause of death are ongoing,” a statement said.

“Influenza has been ruled out, and at this stage we do not believe there is any risk to the public.

“It would be premature to speculate further on the cause of death until the investigation is complete,” it added.

“Monitoring of the small number of staff and health workers who came into close contact with the deceased couple was conducted, and as a precaution remains ongoing. All are currently well.

“The ministry is co-ordinating with the US Embassy in Fiji and working closely with the Fiji Police Force’s forensics department, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine the cause of death, with these organisations providing technical support.”

The statement also expressed condolences to the families of the deceased couple.

World Health Organization Pacific Technical Support Division communication officer William Seal confirmed their part in the inquiry.

“WHO is providing technical support to the Fiji Government’s investigation, as is CDC,” he said.

Both, Biosecurity Authority of Fiji and Fiji Airports referred all queries to the Health Ministry when contacted last week.

Questions sent to the United States Centers for Disease Control remain unanswered.

More Stories