DoH: More than 400 cases of pink eye treated so far

Department of Health information released yesterday shows that more than 400 cases of pink eye have been recorded at the LBJ Medical Center and the community health centers, but does not include the nearly 2,300 students affected at all public schools as announced last week by the Education Department.

 

DoH officials, in a meeting with Samoa News yesterday, provided the “Situation Report-Pink Eye American Samoa”. It says that the pink eye epidemic is thought to be introduced in the territory on Mar. 20th with the return of a high school singing group from Samoa — where there was an outbreak reported.

 

It also says that cases of pink eye started to be seen at the DoH community health centers, the LBJ emergency room and eye clinic following the students’ return, with total of 327 cases as of last Thursday. Further, 58% of cases are male, 27% are children, with the median age of cases is 30 years old.

 

But as of yesterday morning, DoH’s Dr. Mark Durand says total number of cases stands at 468 — and again these are ones only seen at LBJ and community health clinics.

 

DoH data noted that there are many more cases in the community and cited DOE information released last Thursday of 2,259 students and 130 teachers affected with pink eye that prompted the closure of public schools, set to reopen tomorrow, which is the same day that Catholic schools is rescheduled to reopen (instead of today, as originally planned.)

 

DoH says no cases have been reported from Manu’a, and there are no reports of serious complications due to pink eye.

 

Data graphic provided by DoH shows pink eye cases peaked Apr. 3 and 4th, before it dropped over the weekend. “Very high transmission rates may be leveling off but are expected to continue this week,” it says.

 

Durand says that there were fewer cases seen at the ER over the weekend and it wasn’t clear, if it’s because most of the clinics were closed or the “epidemic was getting less. “I think with the next... two days, we’ll be more clear as more data is collected,” he noted.

 

The DoH doctor explained that it takes an average of six or seven days for a person to have pink eye. “Some people have milder cases and some more severe,” he said and acknowledged that most people don’t see a physician for pink eye.

 

Durand also said that pink eye is “not really dangerous. It’s a nuisance, a bother, but it’s not really dangerous. It’s very rare for it to cause any serious damage to the eyes. And as far as we know, it’s never fatal.

 

DoH officials, who attended the meeting, including Durand along with DoH director Motusa Tuileama Nua and his deputy director Farah Utu, all stressed the importance of practicing good hygiene by washing hands, and using hand-sanitizers.

 

BACKGROUND

 

Samoa News first reported the outbreak of ‘pink eye’ in Samoa on Mar. 21st. At the time, Samoa News also asked the DoH’s Chief Medical Officer, Tamasoali’i Dr. John Tufa about the Samoa outbreak and its possible outbreak here in the Territory.

 

At the time, Tamasoali’i told Samoa News that 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.”

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