A collaborative way to tackle the Zika virus, which has been causing much concern both nationally and internationally, was the subject of a meeting convened by the Ministry of Public Health yesterday.
In attendance were the Ministers of Public Health, Dr. George Norton (Senior Minister), and Dr. Karen Cummings (Minister within the Ministry); along with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who deliberated with regional and international stakeholders.
The stakeholders included United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative to Guyana and Suriname, Ms. Marianne Flach; Director General of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Audrey Jardine-Waddell; Deputy Head of Mission of the Brazilian Embassy, Sabinie Popoff; and Programme Manager of Health Sector Development at CARICOM, Dr. Rudolph Cummings.
The meeting was held following the World Health Organisation’s declaration of the Zika Virus as a Public Health Emergency of international concern.
The Regional and International representatives gave assurances of their support to Guyana. Thus far there has only been one confirmed case of the Zika virus.
Minister Norton at the meeting stressed that it was in recognition of the importance of all relevant stakeholders in charting the way forward that the Ministry has embraced collaboration with key stakeholders in the form of regional and international representatives.
The Ministry of Public Health, through the Vector Control Services Department currently has a schedule of fogging exercises for eight of Guyana’s 10 administrative regions. There are however plans to include the remaining regions shortly.
As part of the preventative measures the Ministry has incorporated house to house activities and the distribution of treated mosquito nets.
Dr. Horace Cox, who currently has responsibility for the Vector Control Services Unit said that very soon there will be intensified surveillance at ports of entry and the availability of more public education materials.
He stressed the importance of community participation and urged persons to prevent mosquito bites, as far as possible, even as efforts are made to eliminate possible breeding sites of mosquitoes.
The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes polynesiensis mosquitoes. Persons could try to avoid being bitten, by wearing light coloured clothing which covers their body, arms and legs. Applying insect repellent to exposed parts of the body and using household insecticide sprays, coils and candles can also be useful.
Controlling possible breeding sites around the home could include covering black tanks properly, ensuring that water is not lodged in tyres, plant containers and other vessels which harbour relative clean water.
The Zika virus is considered a self-limiting disease, with symptoms lasting four to seven days. It appears as a very moderate disease, with fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, rash and sometimes swelling of the limbs. Some persons may also experience vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. A very distinct symptom too is that of conjunctivitis (red eyes).
Pregnant women, in particular, are urged to sleep under mosquito net, since the Zika virus is believed to have been the cause of some abnormalities in developing fetuses.
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