Both American Samoa and Hawaii have taken official measures to curb potential Zika virus outbreaks, which are among the first meaningful efforts at combatting the mosquito-borne virus in the United States.
American Samoa’s Lt. Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga has declared a Zika epidemic in the territory, after its Department of Health determined that up to 205 individuals could have contracted the virus.
Although only four individuals, including one pregnant woman, have tested positive, the 54,000-person territory’s Department of Health was able to extrapolate based on similar reported symptoms.
“What we did was that we looked up the four cases that were tested positive and went back to the record book to look at some of the cases that have the same symptom profiles,” Department of Health epidemiologist Scott Anesi said in a Thursday press conference, according to Samoa News. “So the case definition of Zika is any two of the four symptoms such as pink eye, rash, joint pain, and fever. So if you have two of those four, we are going to classify that as Zika, because we know that Zika transmission is ongoing.”
By declaring an epidemic, the territory is also placing its anti-Zika efforts under the control of a unified command, which will be guided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A CDC medical team is on its way to the island chain to join a CDC doctor who arrived earlier this year, according to local news site Talanei, which says officials are reviewing some 205 possible cases.
In November, Samoa, the territory’s larger neighbor to the west, reported local transmission of the Zika virus — meaning that mosquitoes in that island nation had been infected with the virus and spread it to people, the CDC says.
On Sunday, Hawaii declared a state of emergency to fight mosquito-borne illnesses including Zika, after over 250 people contracted dengue fever.
Although there have not yet been any reported cases of Zika in Hawaii, the state will bolster its mosquito control and entomology staff (which was slashed during the recession, per the Associated Press).
Hawaii Gov. David Ige said, “We are doing everything we can to be prepared, to be proactive, to prevent vector borne diseases here in Hawaii.”
The CDC has not issued a travel advisory for Hawaii, but it has for a number of islands in the Caribbean (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), some of the Pacific Islands (including American Samoa), Cape Verde, Mexico, and parts of Central and South America.
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