Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. emergency preparedness director Warren Villagomez assures that the CNMI still has zero suspected cases of a bird flu strain originating from China.
As of May 3, the World Health Organization website has recorded 126 cases and 24 deaths caused by the avian influenza A(H7N9) virus.
According to Villagomez, the corporation remains vigilant against this bird flu outbreak and continuously monitors all activities from different sources such as daily updates from WHO and from the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control, among other sources.
The corporation is also in close contact with airlines and airport officials on the issue, he said.
“What we’re doing here in the CNMI, we continue to monitor on a daily basis. We’re getting feedback from airlines and the CBP [Customs and Border Protection] as well. All intelligence that come our way, we’re not holding them but actually leaning forward to,” said Villagomez.
Although there has been no confirmation of human-to-human transmission of the viral strain, Villagomez said the CNMI cannot relax at this time.
“It remains sporadic and it’s something that we shouldn’t be relaxed on. We’re monitoring all our sentinel sites, including Rota and Tinian areas,” Villagomez said, adding that risk communication materials are being distributed in community and schools to make sure that the CNMI maintains its awareness.
Also ready since Day 1, Villagomez said, is the Commonwealth Health Center where test kits are on standby for whoever may be tested for possible symptoms.
“Yes, flu is all around in the CNMI and we see it on a daily basis but not this strain [bird flu]. We are prepared with our test kits and we already established a close contact in Hawaii (for expedited lab testing if necessary) in the event we identify potential cases,” he said.
To this date, the Commonwealth remains free of the symptoms of the bird flu virus and no tests have been administered because they do not meet the criteria of the strain found in China, he added.
Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Perry Tenorio also confirmed the absence of suspected bird flu cases on the island.
MVA also monitors travelers’ influx to the CNMI and closely coordinates with travel partners in key markets like China.