UPDATE: WITH 200+ SUSPECTED ZIKA CASES GOVT ACTIVATES UNIFIED COMMAND
There are more than 200 suspected cases of Zika virus in the territory, according to Department of Health’s Epidemiologist Scott Anesi who accompanied Lt Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga, when he declared a Zika epidemic for American Samoa after DOH laboratory test results came back with four confirmed Zika virus cases and among those is a pregnant woman.
This was revealed during a press conference held Thursday afternoon at the Department of Health Tafuna Clinic. Lemanu who’s Acting Governor called an emergency meeting with his cabinet where he called for a territorial clean up on Friday for all departments and agencies.
According to Anesi they are targeting prevention for pregnant women as there have been abnormal babies born from mothers who have Zika in Brazil. “If you're pregnant and you suspect that you have symptom of Zika we recommend you come in for evaluation and testing and we are trying to send as many specimen as we can off island and we are conducting weekly testing. We want to make sure that pregnant women are given that best treatment and we can evaluate whether there is any complications with their pregnancy.”
Anesi stated the territory is seeing ongoing Zika virus transmissions and American Samoa is in the midst of the spread of this virus. “We are now evaluating the affected and one of the consequences of epidemic status is that the Unified Health Demand has been officially activated and all the data and releases of information will come from this command.
According to Anesi the guidance for the Unified Command will come from the Center for Disease Control and they have sent someone to the island to assist with the ongoing spread of Zika on island.
“What we did was that we looked up the four cases that were tested positive and went back to the record book to look at some of the cases that have the same symptom profiles. So the case definition of Zika is any two of the four symptoms such as pink eye, rash, joint pain and fever. So if you have two of those four, we are going to classify that as Zika, because we know that Zika transmission is on going.”
Using that criterion they are now able to say that they are suspecting the number of cases is 205. Health officers are going to evaluate that weekly to come up with a situation report with a village breakdown so that the people of American Samoa can be aware of the spread of the virus. He said the virus is mild, the joint paint doesn’t last like in chikungunya cases and it doesn’t bleed like dengue fever.
He explained that Zika infection is a mild febrile mosquito-borne viral illness, transmitted by the bite of certain Aedes mosquito species and it’s a flavivirus closely related to the dengue virus. He said although it’s a mild virus and the public needs to take precautionary measures to avoid getting sick — most especially pertinent for pregnant women.
He said the public could prevent mosquito bites by dressing with long sleeves; using mosquito repellent and insecticide; screening houses and sleeping in mosquito nets especially for babies, pregnant women, elderly and people with co-morbid conditions.
The public should be cleaning up their surrounding and living environment, destroying all mosquito breeding sites such as old tires, plastic containers and bags, clear blocked gutters and re-new standing water inside and outside houses.