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Health & Safety

Stay healthy and enjoy your holiday

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Sunburn is a significant risk

Medical facilities in Samoa are below world standard and anyone with serious illnesses or injuries are evacuated to New Zealand or Australia.

Health
Avoid drinking untreated water and ice to prevent water-borne diseases and don't swim in fresh water/ rivers as sewage discharges into them.

Travellers' Diarrhoea
This presents a low to moderate risk in urban and resort areas as most hotels and restaurants generally serve reliable food and water. Elsewhere, travelers should observe all food and drink safety precautions.

Amoebiasis (amoebic dysentery)
A parasitic infection causing intestinal disease. Transmission occurs by eating food that is contaminated with feces from an infected person or drinking water containing amoebic cysts. Transmission also occurs sexually by fecal/oral contact. Infection rates are highest in areas where sanitation is poor.

Samoa has a similar rare water borne parasite unique to Samoa that gives severe chronic diarehea that may last months or even years.

Typhoid
Vaccination is recommended for all travellers with the exception of short-term visitors who restrict their meals to major restaurants and hotels.

Dengue fever
Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne illness dengue fever occur in Samoa. Dengue is transmitted via the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. Aedes mosquitoes feed predominantly during daylight hours. All travelers are at risk and should take measures to prevent any mosquito bites.
There is no vaccination to prevent or medication to treat dengue.

Hepatitis A
Transmitted through contaminated food and water. Travellers who will have access to safe food and water are at lower risk.

Ciguatera poisoning
Is prevalent and can result from eating coral reef fish such as grouper, snapper, sea bass, jack, parrotfish, sturgeon, ulua, and barracuda.

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, usually followed by neurological symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, paresthesia, numbness, ataxia, vertigo, and hallucinations. Severe cases of ciguatera can also result in cold allodynia, which is a burning sensation on contact with cold (commonly incorrectly referred to as reversal of hot/cold temperature sensation) and Doctors are often misdiagnose symptoms of ciguatera poisoning.

Once contracted, although many recover over a few weeks, others take months or years, severe recurrence can occur at any time, and the toxin may be sexually transmitted. The ciguatoxin is not destroyed by cooking and there is no effective treatment or antidote.

The occurrence of toxic fish is sporadic, and not all fish of a given species or from a given area will be toxic. Tip - eat only Tuna sahshimi.

Safety
There are occasional violent assaults and robberies including sexual assaults against foreigners, so exercise caution at all times. Particular care should be taken near Apia’s downtown bars, restaurants, and the sea wall area along the harbour front at night where a number of violent incidents involving foreigners and Samoans have occurred.

In September 2009 an undersea earthquake near Samoa caused a tsunami to strike the southern coast of Upolu island which killed 143 people and destroyed some villages, hotels and beach-side accommodation (fales). Visitors to Samoa staying at beachside resorts should check with their accommodation providers for advice on procedures to be followed in the event of an earthquake. The majority of tourist infrastructure damaged by the tsunami has been rebuilt and reopened.

ouch

This vine that looks so soft and feathery is ever so painful if it snags your skin.

Dangers

Heat stroke, sunburn, insect bites, scratches from corals or plants.  Untreated wounds can quickly become septic, so if you are injured, cut or scratched,  attend to it immediately else you may be scared for life.

On Land:
Beware of a low vine with a leaf that looks similar to an acacia. It is widespread and looks soft in comparison with surrounding plants. This vine has sharp back facing hooks that can rip your skin open.

Driving
There are a few things to look out for such as drivers overtaking on blind corners, running over one of the pigs which wander everywhere. If you do run over one, keep going to  the nearest police station as the locals may be upset enough to take the law into their own hands. There are speed bumps all around the islands and not all are well marked. There are fords where streams flow over the road and in particular, the two between Lalomanu and Lotofoga are unmarked and dangerous if you drive into them unaware and to fast.

In the Ocean:
Swimming-related hazards include sharks, jellyfish, including the Indo-Pacific man-of-war, stonefish, scorpion fish, stingrays, sea snakes, spiny sea urchins, sharp coral and poisonous cone shells. Swimmers should take sensible precautions to avoid these hazards. Stonefish, scorpion fish and stingrays congregate in shallow water along the ocean floor and can be difficult to see. Thick soled footwear may help protect you, but should not be relied upon as many of the spines are sufficiently rigid and long to penetrate wetsuits, footwear, and gloves.

Sea snake, stonefish, scorpion fish, stingray and box jellyfish venoms are highly toxic and if untreated quickly may have fatal consequences, such bites or stings are always medical emergencies which require immediate evacuation to a medical facility.

Divers
There are no hyperbaric chambers on any of the islands for treatment of scuba diving related injuries. Serious cases of decompression sickness are evacuated to the nearest treatment centre in Suva, Fiji, or Auckland, New Zealand. All registered dive companies carry basic treatment equipment to meet PADI standards.

Sharks
Sharks are rarely seen although often present and the most common species are the blacktip and whitetip reef sharks while occasional hammerhead and tiger shark sightings have been reported.  Blacktips tend to be more inquisitive than dangerous. A report for American Samoa says there have not been any shark fatalities in 40 years.

Law and etiquette
Samoans are very conservative, women cannot bare their breasts in public and any public nudity will cause offence. Homosexuality is illegal,  and in Samoa Criminal penalties are harsh by most western standards so take care not to offend.

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