- By Joyce McClure
Yap schools closed for one month due to disease outbreaks
Colonia, Yap— All public schools on the main island and neighboring islands of Yap have been ordered to close from Sept. 3 to Oct. 4 due to outbreaks of dengue, leptospirosis, hand-foot and mouth disease and amoebiasis.
A Health Crisis Task Force was formed to address the public health issue with representatives from all government agencies, Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services and other relevant organizations. The group met on Aug. 31 to review available statistics and decide on a plan of action.
Schools are in session today to provide the opportunity for principals to establish and communicate a plan of action to teachers, staff, parents and students for the next month.
Since the recent start of school, it is reported that more than 28 percent of public school students have been out sick and approximately 75 percent of dengue cases are in school age children. The statistics for private schools are not included in those numbers. Public education about the signs and prevention of these diseases has been posted throughout the islands and announced on the government radio station for several months.
It has been learned that the government cannot dictate that private schools must close in Yap. Therefore. the school closure in Yap is limited to public schools. However, it was strongly urged that the private schools close in order to help slow the spread of the outbreaks. Yap Catholic High School and St. Mary's School will be closed from Sept. 3 to 13. A radio announcement and social media will be posted beginning September 11 to confirm if the schools will re-open on September 13 or if they will remain closed. Public schools will remain closed until October 4. A report from FSM Health Services states that between Jan. 1 and Aug. 25, 2019, 91 cases of dengue were confirmed of which 82% were children aged 2 to 19. During the same period, 82 cases of lesptospirosis were confirmed and were "well distributed between the ages of 3 to 80." Fifty-four percent of the confirmed cases were in the 54 and older age range. One death has been attributed to dengue. No deaths have been cited for Leptospirosis. Both diseases are non-communicable. Dengue results from mosquito transmission and Leptospirosis from the urine of infected small animals that may be transferred to humans through tainted soil or water. However, the other two diseases that have been cited, Hand foot & mouth disease and amoebiasis, also known amoebic dysentery, are highly contagious. Frequent hand washing and other sanitary measures are being promoted to slow their spread.
On Guam, the Department of Public Health and Social Services has been notified of an additional confirmed case of imported dengue fever from an individual from Yap.
“Dengue fever is not endemic in Guam and dengue virus transmission is not occurring on island. All dengue cases occurring on Guam were contracted off-island,” DPHSS said in a press release.
There were 41 recorded cases of dengue on Guam between 1998 and 2018. Two cases were confirmed in 2019.
DPHSS said it expects to see additional cases on Guam as a result of frequent travels to and from Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Philippines.
The Palau Ministry of Health reported 29 new dengue cases in Palau between Aug. 5 and 11.
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