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Micro Games athletes get vaccines as Pohnpei measles outbreak expands

MAJURO — Athletes preparing for the Micronesian Games that open in Pohnpei on July 20 have been warned to obtain vaccinations as a measles outbreak continues to worsen in Pohnpei.

With 132 measles cases confirmed and suspected in Pohnpei as of July 3, health officials in the capital state of the Federated States of Micronesia have launched a mass measles vaccination campaign.

The outbreak has occurred on the eve of the largest sports event in the region, the every-four-year Micronesian Games, that is expected to bring over 1,500 athletes to Pohnpei for 10 days of competitions.

Health authorities in the Marshall Islands are taking the outbreak seriously because there is significant travel between the two countries. Marshall Islands Health Secretary Julia Alfred issued an alert Saturday and reminded all athletes, coaches and supporters going to Pohnpei to get their immunizations.

“Public Health has been coordinating with Marshall Islands team officials to ensure 100 percent coverage on all athletes,” said Health Assistant Secretary Mailynn Konelios-Lang Saturday. “The immunization program will also be coordinating with United Airlines to verify all travelers to FSM are vaccinated.”

Over 160 athletes, coaches and officials are in the Marshall Islands sports delegation that will begin heading to Pohnpei July 15.

As a preventive measure, public health nurses who conduct daily community outreach visits have over the past two weeks completed vaccinating all children five and under in five of the seven zones on Majuro Atoll, Konelios-Lang said.

In a measles outbreak status report issued July 4, Pohnpei health officials said of the 132 cases detected to date, 28 have required hospitalization. People with measles range from two months to 56 years of age.

Travelers to Pohnpei are urged to update their measles vaccinations before visiting. A crash island-wide vaccination program in Pohnpei has so far immunized 84 percent of the children from six months to adults up to 49 years, health officials said.