Quick response to Zika

The Ministry of Health has called in a multi-agency group (shown here) to respond to the Zika virus. Photo: Hilary Hosia.
The Ministry of Health has called in a multi-agency group (shown here) to respond to the Zika virus. Photo: Hilary Hosia.

HILARY HOSIA

The Ministry of Health moved into emergency action mode after confirmation last Thursday that Majuro has its first case of the Zika virus.

After verifying Zika confirmation with the Hawaii laboratory Thursday, in less than two hours a team was set up and dispatched to inspect the home and surrounding area where the first person with the virus lives to provide information, and motivate action to clean the area to remove mosquito breeding debris.

Health Minister Kalani Kaneko recognized ministry staff for the “professional and timely” response. But this was just the kick off. The ministry is coordinating with numerous other agencies and Majuro Atoll Local Government to push mosquito eradication efforts into high gear around the atoll.

The Ministry of Health is also expected to seek Chief Secretary endorsement for a declaration of emergency from Cabinet for Zika. On Wednesday, Kaneko and a team of health officials met with Majuro Mayor Ladie Jack and council members to engage their support. Kaneko asked MALGov to assist with outreach to Majuro slabs and residents to take action to clean and remove mosquito breeding material. The ministry also asked for heavy equipment assistance to move large trash items in the Delap area in particular to remove breeding grounds.

Jeirok Councilman Jina David and Aenkan Executive Councilwoman Betty Tibon-Imaikta were vocal during the meeting, saying they and other MALGov officials are ready to take action in their communities.

Spraying to kill mosquitoes is not an option now because of outdated spray supplies. “What we have is human resources,” said Health Assistant Secretary Mailynn Konelios-Lang at the MALGov briefing Wednesday. “During the dengue and chikungunya outbreaks we used our human resources to clean up,” she said. Because the Zika virus can also be transmitted by blood contact, the hospital has banned blood transfusions to pregnant women.

In addition to the one confirmed case of Zika, there are five other suspected cases as of last week, with more likely to appear.

Read more about this in the February 26, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.

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