According to regional health authorities, Chikungunya, a debilitating mosquito-borne viral disease, has taken hold in French Polynesia, spreading rapidly and threatening neighboring Pacific nations.
The disease, typically found in low levels in Africa and Asia, this year has infected almost a million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the World Health Organization.
French Polynesia, with a population of more than 268,000, said four people had died and more than 18,000 people had sought treatment for the disease since October, the first outbreak in the archipelago.
“We think that about half of the population will be affected in this cycle,” said public health surveillance head Henri-Pierre Mallet, adding that the start of the rainy season would help the disease spread.
Samoa has reported more than 2,500 cases since July, while American Samoa and Tokelau had also suffered outbreaks, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), based in New Caledonia, said.