Efforts underway to curb Zika in American Samoa
The government in American Samoa is to begin a three day clean-up of the main island Tutuila, in an attempt to eradicate the mosquito that carries the Zika virus.
The government in American Samoa has begun a three day clean-up of the main island Tutuila, in an attempt to eradicate mosquitoes which carry the Zika virus.
Eight cases of Zika have now been confirmed in the territory, and that number could rise with more women waiting for test results.
Bridget Grace reports.
More than 3,000 government employees are expected to participate in the clean-up campaign that's targeting villages that have the highest number of pregnant women. Employees from all government departments will be required to remove objects that are out in the open collecting water, as they provide a breeding ground for mosquito. An epidemiologist at the Department of Health, Scott Anesi, says the big focus now is trying to remove the mosquitoes the carry the virus.
SCOTT ANESI: We're going out into the community and identifying the spots that would breed the most and working with our local entomologist to make sure that that's our primary focus.
Laboratory testing which is needed to confirm the zika virus is limited in the Pacific. Mr Anesi says samples are sent to Hawaii and Colorado for testing every Monday and the turnaround time can vary between a few days and a couple of weeks.
SCOTT ANESI: So it's very difficult, the turnaround time can be a bit of a wait which is why a lot of the cases that we're confirming right now are actually cases that were sent off weeks ago.
Mr Anesi says they are still in the process of sending more samples to be analysed. The Department of Health is also setting up a pregnancy registry, with 548 women have so far identified. The department plans to distribute preventive kits to all women on the list, and they're urging pregnant women to be tested for the virus. The director of nursing, Margaret Sesepasara, says pre-natal check ups, tests and other services are free of charge during the outbreak.
MARGARET SESEPASARA: So all pregnant mums out there please come in for your check up or your physical, and if you are not sure you are pregnant, if you suspect you are pregnant come in and we will test you free. no more charging, no more finance struggle here.
Our correspondent, Monica Miller, says there is a lot of fear among pregnant women.
MONICA MILLER: The information that you're getting from the nurses, women are concerned, especially with this supposed link between zika and the deformities. That is baby's born with small heads. So they want to be protected.
She says people are also concerned that the Department of Health haven't talked about how Zika can be spread through sexual activity.
MONICA MILLER: They're worried that if that's the case and we're only concentrating on mosquitoes, then there's that big risk.
The World Health Organisation has praised the territory's swift response to the outbreak. The WHO's Representative for American Samoa, Dr Yang Baoping says while there is a risk of the virus spreading, the key is to control transmission of the virus.
YANG BAOPING: The government have to take quick actions and also the public have to be co-operative to do their part of the work, protect themselves. And cleaning for example the mosquito breeding sites. But now it's the rainy season, it's quite difficult. If all the household can clean up their surrounding areas, that would big help.
He says Zika isn't new, as the method for dealing with the virus is the same as with earlier dengue and chikungunya outbreaks.
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