UPDATE: All pregnant women to be tested for Zika virus

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — The Ministry of Health will require all pregnant women to be tested for the Zika virus (ZIKV).

This was disclosed by Portfolio Minister Christopher Tufton, as he addressed the House of Representatives yesterday.

“When a woman is tested positive for being pregnant and she has to go through the initial stages of testing, we are going to require her to also do a Zika test, so that we can track, as part of the monitoring,” he said.

The unborn child is at high risk of developing microcephaly once the pregnant woman has been infected with the Zika virus.

Microcephaly is an abnormal smallness of the head, which is associated with incomplete brain development.

In addition, the ministry is preparing the Intensive Care Units and High Dependency areas at hospitals in the event that persons are diagnosed with Guillain–Barré Syndrome (GBS).

Zik V is also a cause of GBS, an illness of the nervous system resulting in damage to the nerve cells, muscle weakness and, sometimes, paralysis.

“We will be getting additional ventilators; we will procure more and repair others that are not presently functioning,” Tufton said.

As at May 29, the Ministry of Health received reports of 2,166 notifications for  Zik V.  Some 1,519 of these fit the case definition for Zika and were classified as “suspected Zika fever”.

The ministry received the highest number of notifications from Kingston and St. Andrew (653), followed by St Catherine (620).

Of the 787 which were tested, 408 results have been received, of which 21 were positive for the Zika virus. Two of the 21 confirmed are pregnant women who will be continuously monitored.

The World Health Organization indicates that as much as 70 per cent of the population of a country may be infected over time.

However, only one out of four of the infected persons will have symptoms and up to 50 per cent of symptomatic persons may be sick enough, requiring a visit to the doctor.

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