“PINK PARANOIA”

Dear Editor,

 

While I haven’t yet come across any hard data with regard to the overall reported cases or incidents of the infected as a territory, I have been following the media updates, comments, and letters to the editor regarding the latest conjunctivitis, or “PINK EYE”, breakout in the territory. The breakout has also made various national news outlets after the cancellation of all public schools for over a week and as a result was last weeks # 3 “TRENDING” or most talked about topic in the nation on Yahoo news last week. Trailing not far behind on the list was our very own half-Samoan WWE wrestler and most recently named Forbes List “Top  Grossing Actor of 2013”, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

 

Most of us understand that it is not a deadly virus, however, there are valuable lessons to be learned from the rate at which so many have become hit and fallen prey to what my friends and I have referred to as #ThePinkPlague Lol!

 

LEVELS OF PUBLIC AWARENESS

 

I cannot tell you how many public establishments (to include Government departments) I have gone to, where multiple people are donning sunglasses indoors —at nighttime even— to mask their inflamed watery eyes. The fact that so many continue to traverse about the territory exacerbating the spread of this highly contagious virus is telling of the awareness levels and, maybe even in some cases, complete carelessness toward alleviating the breakout.

 

Everyone should play a part and has a responsibility in curbing the spread by keeping their infected children at home from school (where viruses/bacteria are easily spread), calling sick from work, and limiting public interaction as much as possible.

 

PARANOIA vs PANIC

 

I think it was great that mass text messages regarding the alert that were sent out to the public via BLUESKY but again they are only effective assuming that it is a well-versed public with regard to the condition and ways to prevent it.

 

The alert level notification coupled with the cancellation of all schools has led some to believe that there has been somewhat of a panic. Personally, I think there needs to be some degree of concern and that it’s healthy to be somewhat paranoid as opposed to completely panicking or freaking out—or worse, just completely taking a nonchalant approach toward it.

 

This paranoia (to include my own) in my opinion has not so much been a panic than it has been a serious desire not to become infected. I owe my own personal pinkeye prevention success story to my almost OCD-like behavior towards the use of hand sanitizers, water, and soap.

 

Lysol spray, clorox wipes and a plethora of other germ killers have become my best friends recently and I have made it a habit to make use of them after touching anything and leaving a room. Admittedly, I have treated random passersby and friends alike like walking viruses from afar and shamelessly demanded free hand sanitizer at several stores where infected cashiers were knowingly serving patrons that come in and out of their stores.

 

COMPREHENSIVE DATA

 

While I have only read of a few piecemeal data and statistical rates of infections from several Government departments or authorities, the need for more comprehensive data with regard to incidents such as these is critical. Having this type of data in not only crucial in terms of documenting the history of these events but is also key information in preparing for a worst case scenario. More importantly it is also important in assisting with data-driven decision making. We’ll never have 100% guaranteed accurate number of recent and past pink eye cases and incidents because not all of them are tracked or reported at hospitals but creating a system that allows for them to be reported is certainly a step forward and can only benefit.

 

It has been my experience that critical data gathering and sharing is difficult in our territory and within our Government because of the lack of a centralized or online database that can be solved with legislation toward a FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (FOIA) and better documentation and reporting practices.

 

We are truly blessed that this was just pink eye and not one of the more deadlier types of outbreaks as we have seen in recent history with H1N1, Bird Flu, and other types of epidemics.

 

It’s too easy to place the blame on a single Department or Director when we are faced with troubling circumstances or difficult decisions but planning, coordination, and preparation for all incidents both natural and man-made are not only the responsibility of the Department of Health but rather the Government and territory as a whole.

 

Pink eye free, Patrick Ti’a Reid

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