The Chikungunya Virus is expected to remain constant in the Guyanese society. This deduction has been drawn by
Public Health Specialist, Dr. Morris Edwards, who currently holds the position of Director of Communicable Diseases within the Ministry of Health. Dr. Edwards’s disclosure was made during an interview with this publication yesterday. He intimated that much like dengue fever, the Chikungunya Virus will continue to remain a threat.
Both Dengue Fever and the Chikungunya Virus are transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito which is very prevalent in coastal areas. The virus is able to breed in stagnant but relatively clean water found in vases, tyres, puddles, guttering, etcetera, that are easily fostered in and around yards.
While there could not have been prevention of the entrance of Chikungunya to these parts, as it was an imported virus, Dr. Edwards did note that its impact could have been greatly minimised had the conditions conducive to the multiplication of the vector long been eradicated.
The Communicable Diseases Director pointed out, “that now that the virus is here and the vector is very much here, we will continue to see a Chikungunya spread. Once there is an increase in the vector population you should expect that.”
The symptoms of the virus can include: rash, vomiting/nausea, headaches, fevers and joint and muscle pains which are similar in the manifestation of dengue fever.
Guyana has officially recorded a few hundred cases of the virus but this publication understands that there have been thousands of clinical cases seen at both private and public health facilities.
According to Dr. Edwards, it has been found that the discomforts resulting from the virus could last for five to seven days in the majority of patients, while there are others who are subjected to the symptoms for even longer periods. “We will continue to see a threat (but) lucky for us it is not a serious illness like malaria because if it was then, we would have been faced with a greater challenge,” asserted Dr. Edwards.
Once an individual recovers from Chikungunya, he or she is expected to develop life-long immunity to the virus, according to the Communicable Diseases Director, as he ruled out the possibility that Guyana could have been exposed to the virus ahead of an outbreak in May this year. “If it was then, we would have seen more cases and you would have seen the cases earlier but that didn’t happen; this is definitely new,” asserted Dr. Edwards.
Confirmation of the presence of the Chikungunya Virus can be done through serological tests and since Guyana lacked capacity to test for the virus at the onset of the outbreak, it was dependent on the services of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad much like the other territories of the Caribbean.
However, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, in an earlier interview with this publication disclosed that while Guyana is yet reliant on CARPHA it has since, with the help of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), been able to train personnel of the local National Public Health Reference Laboratory to test for the virus here. He however, noted that while all the relevant equipment and (testing) kits are here to facilitate testing “we are awaiting some panels to determine positive and negative samples…so we can try the kits to make sure that when we test and it says positive, it is really a positive and they are going through that process now.”
And even as sustained efforts are being made by the Health Ministry to bolster its fight against the virus through vector control, Dr. Persaud admitted that there just might be further need to strengthen the response in this regard.
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