Zika declaration lapses

A spray team was busy last week around Majuro, from left: Vector Disease Control International DDr. Broox Boze, EPA’s Aaron Lang, Ministry of Health’s Bobson Solomon and Jackson Jacklick, and Centers for Disease Control biologist Ashley Gramza. Photo Isaac Marty.
A spray team was busy last week around Majuro, from left: Vector Disease Control International DDr. Broox Boze, EPA’s Aaron Lang, Ministry of Health’s Bobson Solomon and Jackson Jacklick, and Centers for Disease Control biologist Ashley Gramza. Photo Isaac Marty.

Despite ongoing concern about spread of the Zika virus, the initial emergency declaration by President Heine was allowed to expire and authorities were attempting to get it extended late last week.

The expiration of the President’s declaration was noted as a problem area for ongoing Zika prevention work, said weekly Zika update reports issued by the Ministry of Health on April 20 and April 27. An emergency declaration by the President is supposed to speed up the ordering process as well as provide additional funds for the emergency response.

In the section of the report titled “Gaps,” the Ministry of Health said there were several barriers to Zika prevention work, including that: “The President’s declaration has expired and needs renewal in order to continue the MALGov and MAWC village clean-ups.”

The Ministry of Health said other barriers to a rapid response to prevent Zika from spreading include “the process of purchase orders and purchase requests. No changes have been made to this process.” The report also said that providing overtime pay for staff “remains a barrier.”
Ministry of Health Assistant Secretary Mailynn Konelios-Langinlur acknowledged that the emergency declaration period lapsed. “We are working on a Cabinet Paper for extension for another 30 days,” she said last Thursday. “And yes, the initial declaration has already expired.”

The extension request was based on a “recommendation from the Zika subject matter expert to extend another month.”

The President signed the Zika emergency declaration on February 29. It expired at the end of last month.

In the middle of March, while the declaration was still in affect, the Ministry of Health was informed of the first Marshallese baby born with microcephaly. The baby was born in the US.

The Ministry’s report last week said there had been no new possible Zika cases for a week. Spraying to eradicate mosquitoes has been ongoing for two weeks.

Read more about this in the April 29, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.

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