A public health representative stated that although Guam does not have any rapid test kits, they are still able to test for the zika virus in the event there are any suspected cases on Guam.
Guam – With FestPac just around the corner and with the knowledge that the zika virus is present in some Pacific Island nations, is Guam prepared to host some 13,000 visitors this summer?
That is what a FestPac organizational committee discussed during a planning meeting today with several government stakeholders, including the Department of Public Health and Social Services.
Zika test kits seemed to be one of the primary focuses of a Fest Pac organizational meeting at Adelup today. The rapid response test kit will be able to test an individual for the presence of the zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness that is now linked to certain birth defects in unborn babies.
“We hope to get within the next couple of days an answer from the CDC back in Atlanta in regards to whether those kits will be coming in,” said Peter Judicpa, DPHSS Advisor for the CDC.
Judicpa says as of right now there is no way to get immediate results for testing of the Zika virus.
“In the interim it doesn’t mean that you’re not without a fall back and the fall back is that currently Hawaii State lab is the identified lab to process all zika specimens that are suspect cases specimens that are collected here. The only thing though is unlike the rapid response kits, this would take about 48 hour turnaround,” noted Judicpa.
Although there are no signs of zika being present on Guam at this point, that possibility was discussed in light of the upcoming Festival of the Pacific Arts this summer. The event is expected to draw in over 13,000 visitors to the island, some of whom will come from countries that are endemic for the zika virus, such as Yap, French Polynesia and American Samoa.
“The fortunate thing, if there is a fortunate thing about the zika is that the mortality rate is low. So it’s not like ebola where everyone is scared where as soon as you get it, we need to know real quick so we know how to treat you. But the purpose is to determine especially if the danger for us right now as a public health emergency of international concern is the unborn child,” said Judicpa.
Fest Pac Festival Director Rose Ramsey took the discussion a step further. What happens if someone on Guam tests positive for zika, whether a visitor or a resident?
“The question I have is, do we have a contingency plan to zika. Should someome be infected with the virus, what is the next step?” asked Ramsey during the meeting.
“We’ll be ready,” replied Judicpa.
“A major partner that I don’t see at the table right now Ms. Ramsey is Guam Memorial Hospital. If there’s gonna be any ground zero for folks that are being brought in for symptoms and especially if it’s a visitor, chances are they won’t go to a private clinic,” explained Judicpa.
“We’ll be ready well before that. The key is gonna be getting the kits on time and enough of them,” emphasized Public Health Director James Gillan. “We have to beat the pan to make sure they remember we’re out here, and that’s the key. Remind them that we’re going to have 13,000 some odd people visiting us starting in May some from zika endemic countries and we gotta be ready.”