10 Jun 2013

No threat of coronavirus in American Samoa - health officials

6:12 pm on 10 June 2013

Health officials in American Samoa have assured residents that the government is keeping a close watch on the coronavirus which has mainly affected the Middle East and has not spread to the Pacific region.

These comments come after concerns that local media had been needlessly alarming people about the threat from the virus.

Beverley Tse has more:

The Health Department director Motusa Tuileama Nua says his department is working closely with the LBJ Medical Center, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organisation, in monitoring the flu-like virus. Epidemiologist Sharmain Mageo says they have a surveillance system in place to monitor anyone admitted with different types of flu systems and who have recently travelled to the affected areas.

SHARMAIN MAGEO: We do have a surveillance system in place and we're glad that we're so far away that we're not affected. There is no concern. We would be concerned if the virus hit New Zealand, Australia. Then that would be a big concern for us here.

Sharmain Mageo says they will let the people of American Samoa know about any developments. Victoria Cowger, who is with the Health Department's Infections Disease Surveillance division, says the CDC is actively monitoring the virus but has yet to issue any travel warning or restrictions to the affected areas.

VICTORIA COWGER: Our surveillance officers will continue to communicate and keep up with recommendations from the CDC as far as precautions, travels, keeping the people here safe. And just making sure that if the threat does arise, if it does travel outside the Middle East, closer to where we are, then we will make sure we diligently keep our public informed and safe.

Meanwhile, the Health Department's medical director Dr Joseph Tufa says there is some cause for concern because the virus has spread outside of the Middle East to some European countries.

DR JOSEPH TUFA: There is a cause for concern at the moment because as we see the statistics, the spreading of the virus is coming to the Western world, beginning with the United Kingdom, France, Italy, those countries. As you can see there are some cases there, only two or three each country.

Dr Joseph Tufa says there are seldom any American Samoans travelling through the Middle East, unless they are military personnel transitting to and from Afghanistan.