Zika virus on Caribbean's radar

What you need to know about ZIKV

Saturday, November 14, 2015

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FOLLOWING an announcement by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) last Thursday that the Zika virus (ZIKV) has been detected in a Caribbean country, the Ministry of Health has been urging Jamaicans to be more vigilant.


In a news release, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Marion Bullock DuCasse said people need to take their responsibility as citizens seriously by cleaning up their environment and destroying mosquito-breeding sites.


CARPHA last week confirmed the presence of five cases of the mosquito-borne ZIKV in a territory of the Caribbean Community (Caricom). They did not, however, name the territory. Jamaica's Ministry of Health has said that to date the zika virus has not been detected in Jamaica, but that it is continuing its preparedness activities for the possible introduction of the virus in the island.


The virus has previously been reported in Brazil, Colombia, and is suspected to be in the Dominican Republic. The Pan American Health Organization has indicated that it has been confirmed in Suriname, the ministry's release said.


The CMO said the Regional Health Authorities increased the frequency of fogging in several areas and will continue to pay close attention to high-risk communities.


She pointed out that the Zika virus is spread in the same way as chikungunya and dengue, and via the same mosquito - the Aedes aegypti.


Dr Bullock Ducasse also called on the public to destroy mosquito-breeding sites by looking for anything around the home, school, churches and business places that may collect water, and either cover it, keep it dry or dispose of it.


Here are a few things you need to know about ZIKV, as provided by the Ministry of Health:


1. WHAT IS THE ZIKA VIRUS INFECTION?


This is an emerging mosqiuito-borne disease caused by the Zika virus, which is an Aedes mosquito-borne flavivirus closely related to dengue, yellow fever, west Nile or Japanese encephalitis virus.


2. HOW IS ZIKV INFECTION SPREAD?


The disease is spread by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. The ZIKV is transmitted when the female Aedes mosquito bites an infected person and then bites other people.


3. DOES JAMAICA HAVE THE AEDES AEGYPTI MOSQUITOES?


Yes. It is commonly found in Jamaica and is the same mosquito that transmits the dengue and chikungunya virus.


4. WHAT ARE THE HABITS OF THE AEDES AEGYPTI MOSQUITO?


* They bite primarily in the day, but will also bite at any other time during the day. It will almost always be found in and around homes, schools, workplaces, and other places where people gather.


* The mosquito breeds in any type of container where water is allowed to settle. The most common breeding sites are drums, tyres and containers in and around the home, school, workplace, and communities.


* The Aedes aegypti mosquitoes produce on average 100 to 200 eggs per batch. Laid eggs can survive for very long periods in a dry state, often for more than a year.


* The life span of the adult mosquito is two weeks to a month.


WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ZIKV?


The most common symptoms of ZIKV are:


* Mild to severe fever;


* Non-purulent conjunctivitis (pink eye without the sticky substance);


* Joint pains;


* Headache;


* Myalgia (muscle pain);


* Oedema (swelling) in lower limb;


* Weakness;


* Rash (which may itch);


People may also experience:


* Vomitting;


* Diarrhoea;


* Loss of appetite;


* Abdominal pain.


Complications (neurological, autoimmune) are rare and have only been identified in the epidemic in French Polynesia. As at May 21, 2015, no death attributed to ZIKV infection has been reported in any of the outbreaks.


6. HOW SOON AFTER BEING BITTEN BY THE INFECTED MOSQUITO WILL I EXPERIENCE SYMPTOMS?


Symptoms are usually experienced three to 12 days after being bitten by the infected mosquito. At this time, the evidence shows that symptoms will last for a period of four to seven days and are self-limiting.


7. WHO IS AT RISK FOR SEVERE SYMPTOMS?


* Infants;


* The elderly;


* Women in advanced stage pregnancy;


* People with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and sickle cell disease.


8. WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR ZIKV?


There is no specific medication for the treatment of the Zika virus infection. Painkillers can be taken to reduce fever and pain. However, only Paracetamol and Acetominophen painkillers should be used. Do not take painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs.


People who think they have ZIKV infection should report to their doctor or nearest health centre. Persons should also rest, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid mosquito bites.


9. WHAT CAN BE DONE TO REDUCE THE RISK OF GETTING ZIKV?


There is no vaccine to prevent the Zika virus. The best prevention is to:


A) Reduce or eliminate mosquito-breeding sites as follows:


* Check premises weekly for water-filled containers.


* Throw away or recycle water containers that are not needed.


* Cover containers, such as drums or old appliances, which must be stored, covered, turned over or placed under a roof that does not allow them to fill with water.


* Clean and scrub flower vases and pet's water containers weekly, and dump the water from overflow saucers under potted plants and flower pots.


* Clear roof gutters and eaves to prevent water from settling.


* Fill tree holes and other cavities in plants with soil or sand.


* Repair leaking pipes and outside faucets.


B) Protect yourself from mosquito bites by using a mosquito repellent that contains DEET, IR3535 or leasidin, sleep under a mosquito net, wear light-coloured clothing, and cover body as much as possible.


10. SINCE THERE IS NO VACCINE AGAINST ZIKV, WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I TRAVEL TO A COUNTRY WHERE THERE IS AN OUTBREAK OF THE INFECTION?


* You should take the necessary measures to protect yourself from mosquito bites through use of repellents, or use of appropriate clothes that minimise skin exposure.


* Avoid mosquito-infested areas.


* Seek medical attention if symptoms of dengue, chikungunya and Zika fever occur.



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