Marshall Islands declares health emergency

RNZ reports the Marshall Islands has declared a health emergency to respond to recent outbreaks of Hepatitis A and the Zika virus.

This allows the government to mobilise resources for prevention work.

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

The Acting President, Mattlan Zackhras, signed the proclamation for the immediate mobilisation of people and resources to mitigate the spread of disease.

The 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 today, will extend it by resolution.

The Cabinet also approved a resolution requesting 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 is 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.

After an extended drought last year, Majuro has been experiencing heavy rainfall since late in 2016 as the El Nino 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 US Navy spray teams to spray mosquito breeding locations around Majuro.

There has been no US government participation in mosquito prevention since the re-emergence of Zika.