A massive outbreak of conjunctivitis has brought life in American Samoa to a standstill. Among the impacted are an estimated 2,400 students and teachers as well as travelers angling to fly away from the remote island chain and even the courts, which have postponed hearings in accordance with containment efforts.
All 28 public schools were scheduled to reopen Wednesday after shutting down Friday. But only four schools in the remote island group of Manua are back in session. Officials in American Samoa, a group of islands in the South Pacific about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, will keep schools on the main island of Tutuila shuttered until next week.
Pink eye is having quite a comeback as of late. The condition was thought to be behind the sight for sore eyes many viewers agonized through during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics when NBC Spirit Guide Bob Costas was sidelined with an eye infection bearing the tale-tell symptoms.
At the time, Costas explained:
I have no choice to go all Peabody and Sherman on you for the next couple of nights since I woke up this morning with my left eye swollen shut and just about as red as the old Soviet flag. According to the NBC doctors here, it’s some kind of minor infection which should resolve itself by the weekend."
What he really should have said: I really don't see myself going to work the next few days.
Of course, one stricken broadcaster versus an entire island chain with a population of 55,000 people are two very different things. While pink eye is not known to be fatal, it is very contagious. Ironically, one of the only safe methods of social interaction left during a conjunctivitis outbreak is eye contact.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.