Jan 15, 2016 News
By Abena Rockcliffe
The mood was tranquil in the usually turbulent National Assembly yesterday as Minister of Public Health Dr. George Norton announced that the feared Zika Virus has been detected in Guyana.
During a short but informative address, Dr. Norton indicated that on Tuesday (January 12), his Ministry was informed by the Caribbean Public Health Agency’s Laboratory in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago that it had detected the presence of the Zika Virus in a sample of blood from Guyana. The sample was taken on January 4.
Dr. Norton gave details of the case. He said that the Virus was detected in a 27-year-old female who hails from Rose Hall, Corentyne, Berbice, but also resides at Covent Garden, East Bank Demerara.
According to Dr. Norton, his Ministry has already taken measures to arrest the potential outbreak. He told the House that the patient was located at the East Bank address the day after it was confirmed that she was infected. He said that a subsequent visit was made to ascertain the condition of the patient and status of other family members.
The Health Minister said that vector control measures were recommended to the local authorities in both areas, and inspection and fogging have commenced in Rose Hall.
Dr. Norton also informed his colleagues in the House that fogging exercises continue according to schedule in Region Four and household inspections, education and larvicidal treatment in areas where the patient resided commenced yesterday.
The Minister indicated that through the vector control services and the Maternal and Child Health clinics, long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets were distributed to all pregnant mothers and to households with children under 5 years old. He added that mothers are being educated about the risks and are encouraged to take every precaution against bites, and to sleep under the treated nets. Also, surveillance activities continue at all health facilities and practitioners are encouraged to collect samples to conduct tests on all fever cases.
The Zika Virus is very much feared around the world as the once obscure virus rapidly spreads across Latin America and the Caribbean. This is to the extent that U.S. health officials are considering a related travel warning, as experts fear the virus may cause birth defects.
Little is known about the virus, which is spread by mosquitoes. But evidence is growing that it may cause the catastrophic birth defect called microcephaly.
What is clear is that it’s likely to spread much more widely. There’s no vaccine against Zika, a viral cousin of dengue fever, and no treatment for it. Until recently, Zika wasn’t on the radar screens because it only caused very mild illness.
Zika causes a dengue-like illness – fever, headache, skin rash, red eyes, muscle ache. And it looks like the symptoms of many other viral infections. It had also been suspected of causing Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare and sometimes dangerous reaction that often occurs after viral infections.
The virus has also been tied to Rubella, also known as German measles, which can cause microcephaly, learning disabilities, heart disease and other defects. And the most dangerous time is during the first trimester, when women might not yet realize they are pregnant. It’s one reason why doctors stress rubella vaccination and why pregnant women are tested to make sure they’re immune.
Two children died from microcephaly in Brazil and it was reported that Zika virus was found in the babies’ brains.
According to reports, it is not easy to test for Zika. A quick blood test can get Zika mixed up with dengue, which is a longtime resident of the region and all tropical areas. A test called PCR is needed to detect Zika, and it takes longer and is more expensive that a quick test.
When Zika started spreading across the Caribbean and Central America in 2013, the CDC issued a travel warning that simply cautioned people traveling to affected areas to take precautions against mosquito bites: staying inside, wearing long sleeves and using insecticide. So far, that’s what the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), an arm of the World Health Organization, has done.
Zika has been reported across the warm parts of Latin America, from Brazil to Mexico and even in Puerto Rico.
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