In recognition of the fact that the Zika Virus is still a formidable threat to the health sector, the Ministry of Public Health has been fervently putting measures in place to tackle its impact.
As part of this effort, more than 20 local doctors will from tomorrow [April 21] be exposed to training that will prepare them to use ultrasound to detect microcephaly in pregnant women who were exposed to the Zika Virus. The training will be conducted at the country’s main referral hospital – the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC].
Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to normal babies of the same sex and age.
Following an outbreak of Zika and a spike in cases of microcephaly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] in 2016 revealed that “there is now scientific consensus that the Zika Virus is a cause of microcephaly— a congenital malformation with smaller than normal head size for age and sex. It has also been associated with other birth defects and neurologic conditions in children and adults.”
Since the spread of the virus was reported, a number of territories including Jamaica, El Salvador, Colombia and Ecuador had called on women to delay pregnancies.
This was not only because the virus was being linked to microcephaly, but because of the fact that it has been proven that the virus can be transmitted sexually.
It is believed that an infected pregnant woman can transmit the virus to her newborn baby who could be born with microcephaly. Several such cases were reported in Brazil – Guyana’s neighbour to the south.
Guyana too had recorded at least four cases where pregnant women were found to be infected with Zika, with two microcephalic births being acknowledged by the Public Health Ministry during the past year.
Microcephaly can be diagnosed during pregnancy or after delivery, according to the CDC.
During pregnancy, microcephaly can sometimes be diagnosed with an ultrasound test [which creates pictures of the body].
But to see microcephaly during pregnancy, the ultrasound test should be done late in the second trimester or early in the third trimester, CDC has advised.
While it has been established that microcephaly could affect the development of the brain, CDC has noted too that it can in fact occur in combination with or without major defects.
The most extreme form of microcephaly is where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected. According to officials, severe microcephaly can result, because a baby’s brain did not develop properly during pregnancy, or the brain started to develop correctly and then was damaged at some point during pregnancy.
CDC has further deduced that babies with microcephaly can have a range of other problems, depending on how severe their microcephaly is. Microcephaly has been linked to: seizures, developmental delay, such as problems with speech or other developmental milestones [like sitting, standing, and walking], intellectual disability [decreased ability to learn and function in daily life], problems with movement and balance, feeding problems, such as difficulty swallowing, hearing loss and vision problems.
The training programme for the local medical practitioners will be facilitated by RAD-AID International, an aid organization focused on increasing and improving radiology for poor and developing countries.
Tomorrow’s programme, which will commence at 08:00 hours and conclude at 16:30 hours, will see representatives of RAD-AID International also delivering courses to participants in the area of innovative strategies to support advancement of patient-care.
Among the facilitators will be Dr. Berndt Schmit, the Equipment Implementation specialist at RAD-AID International and Dr. Gillian Battino, Director RAD-AID for Latin America.
RAD-AID is an UN-affiliated non-profit organization which last year donated two new CT Scan Machines valued at over G$88M (US$440,000) to the Ministry of Public Health, through Phillips Corporation of the United States.
In addition to training the more than 20 General Medical Officers (GMOs) and obstetricians, drawn from the country’s 10 Administrative Regions and the GPHC, Drs. Schmit and Battino, who are already in country, will visit the sites for the CT Scan Machines at the Bartica Regional and New Amsterdam Hospitals.
At these locations they will inspect and provide technical assistance and support in the design of permanent housing for these machines.
The team is also expected to meet with GPHC executives including Dr. Madan Rambaran, Director, Institute of Health Sciences Education (IHSE), to plan for infrastructure necessary for a residency programme that is scheduled to begin in August this year.
RAD-AID International is known for providing medical imaging [radiology] programmes and improves radiology resources to 15 developing countries, with over 4,000 volunteers and 44 national chapters, including the first three-year Radiology Residency training programme in Guyana at the GPHC in collaboration with the University of Guyana.
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