CHCC staff to help Guam on Zika surveillance for FestPac


A team of health officials from the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. will be assisting Guam in its enhanced surveillance for Zika and other diseases as delegates and visitors from all over the Pacific are coming to the island for the 2016 Festival of the Pacific Arts.

According to state epidemiologist Dr. Paul White, they have a team to help Guam’s Department of Public Health and Social Services.

“We’re sending a very big team to Guam Public Health,” White told Saipan Tribune, “And we’ll be there for the duration to work with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the U.S. Centers on Disease Control and Prevention on an enhancement surveillance system that Guam put in place.”

White said they will have a daily collection of syndromic data which is a “picture of signs and symptoms that people might present with for some diseases.”

“We’ll be doing it daily for two weeks,” White said.

White said sending a team will be beneficial not only for Guam but for the CNMI as well as it will “give us an insight to what they’re doing and what risks they’re seeing.”

According to White, Guam has been doing a lot of vector control prior to the arrival of the delegates and visitors for FestPac which officially opened yesterday.

Some of the countries that are in the Pacific and among those who will be participating has had a history of zika, most of which from the South Pacific, White said.

The World Health Organization currently lists countries with active Zika cases in the Pacific, which includes American Samoa, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and Tonga.

“There is obviously a potential, just a potential, that someone travelling from those islands will take it with them,” White said.

White said they also met with the CNMI delegation for FestPac before they left for Guam for health reminders. They also put up informational flyers at the airports.

“We have produced a flyer that outlines six key messages that is going on the airport here and on Rota and we’ll go out to every outbound flight until the end of FestPac,” White said.

The key messages include proper washing of hands, sneeze and cough etiquette, sun-smart tips, fighting the bite, safe sex, and food handling and safety tips.

Although a recent vector survey in the CNMI showed that there are no Aedes Aegypti—the main vector or species responsible for the transmission of zika, dengue, and chikungunya viruses—on all three inhabited islands, White said it still doesn’t eliminate the risk of transmission.

“This information doesn’t reduce the risk of someone coming in, but it reduces the risk of transmission if it occurs, which is encouraging. But reducing it doesn’t mean it’s eliminated,” White said.

White said the information was “encouraging” and will be helpful to understand how transmission patters will be once an active case gets introduced to the island.

While the survey showed that most of the water samples taken from water containers or stagnant water in the environment showed that there were mosquito species, it showed that it was mostly Aedes Albopictus that is present in the CNMI—species that mainly feeds on and prefers animals than humans.

Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon | Reporter
Frauleine Michelle S. Villanueva was a broadcast news producer in the Philippines before moving to the CNMI to pursue becoming a print journalist. She is interested in weather and environmental reporting but is an all-around writer. She graduated cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Journalism and was a sportswriter in the student publication.

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