Marshall Islands Declares Health Emergency Over Zika, Hepatitis A Outbreaks

Resources being mobilized for prevention efforts

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Jan. 31, 2017) – The Marshall Islands has declared a health emergency to respond to recent outbreaks of Hepatitis A and the Zika Virus in the Marshall Islands.

The government announced the development late last week in order to mobilize resources for prevention work.

As of last week, 89 cases of Hepatitis A had been confirmed and 14 more were suspected, pending laboratory confirmation, said health officials.

Acting President Mattlan Zackhras signed the proclamation for the immediate mobilization of people and resources to mitigate the spread of disease. The health emergency was adopted over two months after the first spike in Hepatitis A cases began in Majuro, last November.

The proclamation and all emergency orders will remain in effect for ten days, with the expectation that the parliament, which returns to session Monday this week will extend it by resolution.

The cabinet also approved a resolution asking the parliament to confirm that the proclamation declaring a state of health emergency issued last week will extend for six months.

The number of confirmed Zika virus cases, which are mainly transmitted by mosquitoes, is still low, with only two confirmed. But this follows nearly a year with no further confirmed cases since the first handful were discovered in early 2016. From a drought early last year, Majuro has been experiencing heavy rainfall since late last year as the El Niño weather phenomenon has abated. This has generated a significant increase in mosquitoes in the capital atoll.

In an outbreak of dengue fever several years ago, the Marshall Islands received assistance from U.S. Navy spray teams to spray mosquito breeding locations around Majuro. There has been no U.S. government participation in mosquito prevention since the Zika emergency.

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