-support to help boost fight against Zika Virus
Some $20M in medical equipment and supplies were on Monday handed over to the Ministry of Public Health, compliments of the Government of China. The items, which were presented to Minister of Public Health, Ms Volda Lawrence, are expected to boost the public health sector’s fight against the Zika Virus and other infectious diseases.
All of the gifted items are intended for the various departments, including the Reference Laboratory, of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
The equipment include two centrifuges, a Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] machine and laptop to support testing for new and emerging infectious diseases. Where necessary, the donated equipment are accompanied by the appropriate testing supplies and reagents.
The strategic support will also see a significant boost to the hospital’s Vector Control Services Unit in the form of mosquito traps and knapsack manual sprayers to support prevention and control activities.
“I want to thank the Chinese Embassy and the people of China for the continued support in the medical field and look forward to other support for the Reference Laboratory,” Minister Lawrence said after the handing over ceremony at the GPHC.
Responding to the Minister’s remarks, Mr. Shen Huiyong, Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Georgetown, said, “We are glad to do something in the public health sector for the Guyanese people.”
It is the view of the Public Health Minister that, “The health of the people of Guyana is of utmost importance to us at the Ministry of Public Health and our efforts are to continually improve the services that we can provide.”
China also offered support to help with the training of local medical workers in the area of control and strategies for the Zika Virus.
The training was conducted by a four-member visiting Chinese team. The team of Chinese specialists who are slated to depart Guyana tomorrow, included: Dr. Yanping Zhang, Dr. Yongjun Jiao, Dr. Zhifeng Li and Dr. Ye Tian.
During their month-long stay, they were able to train health workers within the Vector Control Services, the Reference Laboratory and the Surveillance and Epidemiology Units. This support, according to information out of the GPHC, is to support its prevention and control measures in response to the Zika virus.
Some areas of training included the use of MapInfo to show the distribution of disease cases and the density of the mosquito vector. Vector Control staffers were also coursed in calculating the Breteau Index, a measure of disease risk based on the density of the vector in a particular area, as well as identifying mosquito species throughout the life cycle stages.
The laboratory staffers on the other hand were also supported in testing of samples for the Zika Virus.
Specialized training will not only enhance the referral hospital’s control and prevention measures for Zika “but will also strengthen the health sector’s ability to respond to similar new and emerging diseases.”
The Chinese medical team was also able to visit several other health facilities in Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica) to gain a better understanding of Guyana’s health sector.
China, according to Shen, is also prepared to provide grants to construct new hospitals here or to refurbish others as part of its support to the health sector.
The Chinese support came on the heels of the Public Health Minister’s revelation that at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland earlier this year that despite valiant efforts, Guyana continues to be vulnerable to mosquito born diseases.
The Minister had pointed out that vast borders coupled with the freedom of movement of especially the peoples of the Amazons have contributed to Guyana being faced with the ever-growing threat of the introduction of diseases the likes of Chikungunya and Zika.
The Zika Virus is transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. In addition to the Zika virus and dengue fever, this mosquito can also transmit Chikungunya.
In 1947, scientists probing the yellow fever virus in the Zika forest of Uganda stumbled upon what they described as a “hitherto unrecorded virus” in a rhesus monkey. They named the new virus after the location in which it was discovered – Zika.
It was early last year that Guyana confirmed its first cases of the Zika virus. According to the Centres for Diseases Control, symptoms consistent with the Zika virus include: fever, rash, joint pain, and or conjunctivitis. Other known symptoms are muscle pain, headache, pain behind the eyes and vomiting.
However, the World Health Organisation has since linked the virus to microcephaly, a condition where babies have unusually small heads and underdeveloped brains. There have also been claims that the Zika Virus can cause progressive muscle weakness that can lead to temporary paralysis.
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