Jan 30, 2016 News
…no need for alarm—says Public Health Minister
As the mosquito-borne Zika virus continues to sweep the Americas health officials in Guyana are refuting
the notion that the country is plagued with a pandemic. They promise to continue efforts to monitor the mosquito population.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) had listed Guyana as one of the countries within the Americas as having a Zika Virus pandemic. However, Public Health Minister George Norton, at a forum with other ministers, stated that the country should not be alarmed since there is no such pandemic.
The health organization’s affirmation was measured against a continental spread of the outbreak, he said.
Norton said that Trinidad and Tobago has not recorded a single case of the virus but was listed as one of the countries with the pandemic. So far, Guyana has recorded only one case of the virus.
Tourism Minister, Catherine Hughes, stated that there are a lot of conversations in the international media that Guyana— which is a neighbour to the hardest-hit country Brazil— is struggling with an outbreak.
She said that the Tourism Ministry is actively moving to address this assertion and is preparing a release to send out to the international media, embassies and high commissions to enlighten them about the condition of the virus in the country.
The virus, which is transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti, emerged in monkeys in the Zika forest in Uganda in late 1940s. It then spread across other parts of Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands. Its emergence in the Americas occurred last May in Brazil, which presently has reported nearly 4000 cases of a birth defect called microcephaly— that is strongly suspected to be linked to the virus. Microcephaly causes babies to be born with deficient brain development.
Zika is now present in 23 countries and territories in the Americas.
Norton stated that the virus causes mild fever, red eyes, skin rash and joint pains and that most people may not develop any signs or symptoms. He explained that the agent, which breeds around homes, bites throughout the day and into the night.
Thus, he advised that people wear light coloured clothing that cover the body, arms and legs and apply insect repellent to exposed parts of the body while using household insecticide sprays, coils and candles.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shamdeo Persaud indicated that the Ministry has started fogging all ten Administrative Regions to control the mosquito population and are distributing treated nets to pregnant women in anti-natal clinics nationwide.
He said the vector control services are conducting house-to-house examinations and thus advised the public to cooperate. He stated that their aim is to protect pregnant women and children under the ages of five years old.
However, there is no treatment or vaccine for Zika. This, he said, would pose a problem since Guyana has never been exposed to a virus of this kind and therefore has not developed immunity against it.
Coupled with that concern, Guyana has an abundance of mosquitoes and thus more pregnant women, especially those in the early trimester of pregnancy are placed at a risk along with their unborn child.
Therefore, he stated that they were focused more on distributing the nets and educating the pregnant mothers about the possible danger and how to protect themselves. “We asked them (health centres) each to take a count of their pregnant patients and we would distribute that number to them,” he said, adding that they have distributed nets to both public and private clinics.
Kaieteur News visited a few of these health centres on the East Coast of Demerara, Georgetown and East Bank of Demerara, and most of them reported that they have not received any nets to give to their pregnant patients.
A source at the Campbellville Health Centre indicated that they were neither distributing nets nor receiving nets. The situation was the same at the Industry Health Centre. A source indicated that while they have seen reports in the media that nets were being distributed they have received none. The source added that they were never told to count their patients.
Meanwhile, the Plaisance Health Centre reported that they had distributed all of their nets to their patients and were actively working to educate them on the emergence of the virus in the country.
The first case of Zika was detected January 12, 2016 at a private hospital. The infected woman is still being monitored along with other persons who may have come into contact with her. Other suspected cases were also being monitored and samples of their blood were taken and sent to the Caribbean Pubic Health Agency in Trinidad and Tobago for testing.
On Thursday, Persaud said they received results from nine samples sent and none were positive for Zika. However, four samples were held back for further testing. He stated that if anyone begins to develop symptoms of Zika they should check their nearest healthcare provider immediately.
He said the Ministry was also requesting that vector control workers be allowed to enter premises and conduct inspection and treatment of mosquito breeding sites.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention has activated an emergency operations center to work around the clock to address the virus. Scientists are also working assiduously to develop a vaccine for the virus.
On Thursday, the WHO forecast that as many as four million people in the Americas may become infected by Zika.
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