Feb 11, 2016 News
Social media is being embraced by the Ministry of Public Health to advance its fight against the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings, made this disclosure during Tuesday’s session of the 2016 National Budget debate.
According to Dr. Cummings, her Ministry is poised to immediately step up its education campaign with the use of all forms of traditional and new media technologies. And these, she added, will include the production of audio/audio-visual materials for radio and television.
And Minister Cummings said that the production will take the form of jingles, advertisements, infomercials, and public awareness messages.
“Social Media will also be utilized, particularly Facebook and WhatsApp to get short compelling messages to large numbers of people. Text message blasts will also be employed. In addition, flyers, posters and brochures will be created and distributed across Guyana,” said Dr. Cummings.
“Pro-Bono Television and Radio Interview Programmes will be used, and feature articles will be placed in the daily and weekend newspapers,” the Minister related, as she noted that in areas where access to mainstream media is minimal to non-existent, loud hailers will be used to get messages to the people of those communities.
Simultaneously, the Ministry will continue fogging exercises in all 10 Administrative Regions even as efforts are made to carry on the distribution of treated nets to members of the public, particularly pregnant women, to help in protecting them against mosquito bites.
Research suggests that if a pregnant woman is infected with Zika it can cause her to give birth to an abnormal baby. The abnormality is called microcephaly. This is an unusual smallness of the head, and there have been several reports of this occurring in Brazil. Another condition that has been associated with the virus is the Guillain-Barre syndrome which is an auto-immune disorder.
Within the next two weeks too, Minister Cummings said that the Ministry will commence spraying of different infrastructures with insecticides to assist in controlling the mosquito vector.
Added to this, the Ministry will also seek to introduce the In2Care mosquito trap as a pilot project at selected health facilities and Ministries across Georgetown during the next few weeks. Minister Cummings disclosed too that the Ministry has been sensitizing relevant officers at the Ports of Entry, in addition to strengthening the surveillance system at the said Ports to facilitate more public health promotion.
In the near term, the Ministry will also work towards strengthening the Health Promotion and Communication Unit at the Ministry of Public Health, even as efforts are made to engage and work with stakeholders including PAHO, UNICEF, the Ministries of Telecommunications, Citizenship and Foreign Affairs.
The Ministry will also be forging close collaboration with representatives from CARICOM and CARICOM States and Brazil, Minister Cummings said.
She related too that in the long term the Ministry will seek to build capacity of health staff at the National Reference Laboratory, including laboratory technicians to test and detect the Zika Virus by using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing which is deemed the only reliable test for the virus.
“As the Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, despite the probable economic and tourism threat, I will ensure that the health team and the policy leaders put measures in place to beat the virus, and by extension, work towards removing our country’s name from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) List for the Zika Virus,” said Minister Cummings.
Guyana’s first, and thus far only confirmed case, of the Zika Virus was recorded in January. According to the Minister on January 12, 2016, the Ministry of Public Health was informed of the detection of Zika Virus in a sample of blood sent to Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Laboratory in Trinidad and Tobago.
Even though this detection was a single case, the Ministry of Public Health was galvanized into action. As a consequence, the Ministry of Public Health was immediately put into an alert mode to ensure that this topical public health concern is kept at a minimum and does not contribute to any adverse economic and social burden.
The Zika Virus is transmitted to humans by the Aedes type mosquitoes. Once a mosquito bites an infected person and bites another, it allows the virus to continue to spread. There have been reports that the virus has also been spread sexually.
Zika is manifested with symptoms such as 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). Symptoms, however, are usually mild, health officials have observed.
Since there is no cure for the virus, health officials can only treat the associated symptoms.
In addition to sleeping under netting and removing mosquito breeding sites, persons can also protect themselves by using insect repellent; wearing clothes (preferably light-coloured) that cover as much of the body as possible.
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