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DOH doctor says “no pink eye here” in the meantime Samoa issues health alert

Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Tamasoali’i Dr John Tufa says the outbreak of “pink eye” in our neighboring island of Samoa shouldn’t worry members of the public, as “that’s what’s happening in Samoa, not in American Samoa.” In response to Samoa News queries, Tufa said that pink eye is “merely nothing, it’s seasonal and self treated.”


He further pointed out “unless the Health Ministry in Samoa or the World Health Organization issues an alert on pink eye, we shouldn’t listen to what’s reported in the media in Samoa.”


Samoa News pointed out to Tufa what had been reported in the Samoa Observer and that Samoa’s Health Ministry earlier this week conducted a press conference noting there were 80 cases of pink eye that have already shown up at hospital.


Dr. Mau Imo, Head of the National Eye Unit in Samoa also issued a stern warning against using home remedies like breast milk or salt water, and said that Samoa’s Health Authorities are concerned at the number of cases this early in the year, when compared with the 200 for the whole of 2013.


Samoa authorities have urged the public to take simple precautions against catching the disease and avoid spreading it if they already have conjunctivitis (pink eye).


“If you have pink eye, you need to stay away from work or school to avoid spreading pink eye,” said Imo.


Tufa, who was determined, told Samoa News they will await a report from the Ministry of Health or the WHO — as it is protocol that they must wait for official word, and then they will act. Samoa News further asked Tufa if there are any confirmed pink eye cases in the territory, and in response he said “no.”


(However, Samoa News points out that pink eye is being seen all over, as reported locally by nurses at the hospital and teachers in the schools, who say their students have been absent due to pink eye.)


Tufa further noted that pink eye is self-treated and seasonal “just like the flu — and not life threatening,” he told Samoa News.


According to Tufa, the public should practice good hygiene to control the spread of “pink eye”. Washing your hands often, using a clean towel and washcloth daily, avoid touching your eyes with your fingers, and change your pillowcase often. He also cautioned not to share towels and washcloths with others.


For women it is advised to throw away your eye cosmetics, such as mascara— and don't share eye cosmetics or personal eye care items, as that is how germs spread.


Tufa further noted that although pink eye symptoms may resolve in three or four days, children with viral conjunctivitis may be contagious for a week or more. Children may return to school when they no longer experience tearing and matted eyes. “If your child has bacterial conjunctivitis, keep him or her away from school,” said the doctor.


Imo was joined by the head of the National Surveillance and International Health Registry, Tuliau Dr. Saine Vaai Nielsen during the press conference in Samoa advising that general cleanliness is the best way to protect families and everyone from conjunctivitis. The sudden increase in cases caused concern at the Ministry.


Imo stated that they didn’t want to alarm the public however they were concerned that the number of cases had increased and that is why there is a need to enforce the message of cleanliness in the families to avoid pink eye from spreading, as they try to prevent pink eye from spreading too much and to try to control it.


According to the Samoa Observer, Imo stated that popular remedies like breast milk and salt water can cause more problems than they cure. “A lot of pink eye patients that have come to the hospital now have puss coming out of their eyes, and this is caused by using breast milk,” said Imo. “Breast milk and salty water cannot kill the bacteria that’s causing pink eye. That’s why I urge the public to please avoid using breast milk or salty water, because it will make it worse.”