Updated: Dec 24, 2021
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
The Federated States of Micronesia remains a Covid-free nation, the government declared Wednesday after concluding that the person who was initially reported to be infected had a false positive test result.
However, officials are concerned about the outbreak of influenza-like illness or ILI in Pohnpei.
“We can consider the increase of the common cold to be a kind of fire drill for Covid-19,” President David Panuelo said.
Contact-tracing led to 20 people, who were tested for Covid-19, along with 119 other individuals in the community. All tests were negative for Covid-19 disease. However, Pohnpei State Hospital and local clinics have been notified of 79 cases of flu-like illness.
Officials reported a rapid and concerning spread of ILIs in the communities of Pohnpei. Medical professionals describe influenza-like illness is a nonspecific respiratory illness, whose symptoms include fever, fatigue and cough that last for a few days.
There has been a 20-fold increase in ILI cases in healthcare facilities since Dec. 6.
“We are still Covid-19 free, but we can plainly see that the common cold, which does not spread as fast as Covid-19, has reached much of our community," Panuelo said.
"Let’s learn from this experience, and practice washing our hands, and staying home if we are sick—and wearing a mask in public if we have any symptoms—so that we can protect ourselves and our families," he added.
Human coronavirus NL63 (HCoV-NL63), a common virus that causes the common cold, was determined as the culprit behind this outbreak.
Of all the cases that have been seen so far at the Pohnpei State Hospital, 54 percent are female, 42 percent are under 5 years old, 25 percent are from Madolenihmw, 20 percent from Nett, and 19 percent from Kolonia, respectively.
The symptoms of the common virus HCoV-NL63 may include fever, cough, stuffy nose, headache, sore throat, and/or body aches.
The government reminded the public that the highly transmissible delta variant is now accompanied by the new omicron variant.
The government urges the public to practice hygienic measures, such as washing their hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering their nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing; and wearing a mask if they have respiratory symptoms.
Those who feel sick were encouraged to stay home and avoid the crowd.
“Good hygiene practices not only protect you and others against HCoV-NL63, but also from other respiratory viruses, including Covid,” the government said.