Monday, January 4 – The Ministry of Health and Social Development is advising residents that an alert has been issued for the Caribbean Region as a result of the cases of mosquito-borne Zika virus that have occurred.
The alert was issued by the Pan American Health Organisation. Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Ronald Georges, said “The Zika virus is now present in the OECS, Martinique and Puerto Rico and considering the volume of travel between the BVI and these islands there is a need for increased surveillance and heightened awareness of this virus and its impact on human health.”
The Zika virus is transmitted by the same Aedes Aegypti mosquito that is also the insect vector for Dengue and Chikungunya and the symptoms are also very similar. It is also suspected to carry the risk of microcephaly which causes smaller than expected head sizes to occur in infants of affected mothers.
Acute symptoms can last from 4-7 days and includes fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, eyeball pain weakness, red rash consisting of small bumps, swelling in the lower limbs, anorexia, vomiting and diarrhea, abdominal pain and conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is mainly an inflammation of the outermost layer of the eye and inner surface of the eyelids with no pus production.
Dr. Georges said, “There is no specific medicine or treatment for the Zika virus infection but persons who suspect that they are affected should visit their health care provider to obtain medication for pain and fever as well as the necessary counselling.”
Dr. Georges added, “Prevention and control is fundamental to avoiding transmission of the virus. As a result, the Ministry is encouraging persons to take better control of the environment by eliminating mosquito breeding sites in households and common areas. Personal prevention should be heightened by using mosquito bed nets which can also be treated with insecticide; wearing clothing that does not expose the skin, using mosquito repellents as well as installing wire mesh screens at windows and doors.”
Property owners are also advised to spend at least 10 minutes once a week checking around their surroundings to eliminate water sources that can provide breeding sites for mosquitos such as clogged roof gutters and overgrown weeds and grass.
The Peebles Hospital Laboratory is ready for testing of samples from suspected cases and has established procedures for use by local health care providers. In addition, the Surveillance Officers at the Environmental Health Division will continue to carry out inspections and monitor areas where mosquito breeding may be occurring or areas were suspected cases have been identified.
Persons wishing to obtain more information on the Zika virus can contact the Ministry of Health and Social Development at 468 3701 extension 2282 or the Environmental Health Division at extension 5110.