PALIKIR, Pohnpei—The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), upon further inspection of the person under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19, has determined that the PUI is unlikely to be a COVID-19 case. It is the view of the FSM National Government that the suspected COVID-19 case is a false positive, and that by extension the FSM remains COVID-19 free.
More than 20 close contacts of the PUI were tested for COVID-19, as well as 119 other individuals in the community, and 79 cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) that were presented to the Pohnpei State Hospital and local clinics. Without exception, all tests were negative for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.
However, there remains a rapid and concerning spread of ILIs in the communities of Pohnpei State. There has been a 20-fold increase in ILI cases in healthcare facilities since December 6th, 2021. 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% are female, 42% are under 5 years old, 25% are from Madolenihmw, 20% from Nett, and 19% 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 urges every member of the public to do their part in practicing hygienic measures, such as washing your hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing; and wearing a mask if you have respiratory symptoms. Stay at home if you feel sick, and seek medical care if your symptoms persist for more than 3 days or worsen. Avoid crowds, closed spaces, and unnecessary contact with those outside of your family. Good hygiene practices not only protect you and others against HCoV-NL63, but also from other respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.
The public is reminded that the COVID-19 Delta variant circulating globally is very dangerous and is causing a surge in hospitalizations and deaths in many countries. Omicron, a new variant of concern, has now been reported in at least 80 countries, and is spreading quickly; the latest information the FSM National Government has is that Omicron is responsible for 73% of new COVID-19 cases in the United States of America, whereas a week prior it was responsible for only 3%. There is much we still do not know about this new variant, but the whole of the FSM must be prepared for the possibility that it could come to our shores. The Government has been and will continue to be, expanding COVID-19 testing in all States, and we ask all FSM citizens and residents to take preventive measures to avoid transmission.
“My fellow Micronesians,” His Excellency David W. Panuelo said in a statement, “We can consider the increase of the common cold to be a kind of fire drill for COVID-19. 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. 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.”