Public Health Issues updated Alert for Mosquito borne Zika Virus

Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr Samuel Williams-Rodriguez has received updated notification from the International Health Regulation (IHR) Focal Point in the UK and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) of the continued circulation of the Zika Virus in the Caribbean region and the Americas.According to the IHR there still remains no serious Public Health impact from the Zika Virus in our region. Currently, there is no interference with international travel or trade. In spite of that, the Cayman Islands Public Health Department is issuing an alert for the Zika Virus (ZIKAV) to prevent introduction and transmission locally.Zika causes a dengue and chikungunya like sickness, and is transmitted mainly by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.The most recent activity of the Zika Virus includes five confirmed cases in the Caribbean territory and six cases as of Monday, 30 November in Paraguay. There has been one confirmed case in Guatemala, three cases in El Salvador and Mexico, and four cases in Venezuela. There is no further evidence to show the virus has spread to other Caribbean countries.Dr Samuel Williams-Rodriguez however urges the public to remain on alert and practice precautionary measures for protecting against mosquito bites. “This includes wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants when outside during times that mosquitoes bite and using mosquito repellent with DEET on the skin.“Caution should also be taken to prevent mosquitoes breeding in and around homes. Individuals, communities and stakeholders must take responsibility to prevent transmission of Zika Virus and other mosquito borne illnesses,” added Dr. Williams-Rodriguez.The symptoms of the Zika Virus are very similar to that of Dengue and Chikungunya; they include fever, muscle and joint pain, conjunctivitis, headache, nausea, and rash. There is no vaccine or treatment; however, symptoms (which last approximately four to seven days) are treatable.To relieve fever and pain associated with the virus, it is recommended that persons drink lots of fluids and take pain relievers such as Paracetamol. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should be avoided to reduce the risk of haemorrhage. Residents are also reminded that the infection may present itself as asymptomatic (showing no symptoms). Symptoms usually appear following an incubation period of three to 12 days after the bite of an infected mosquito, lasting between four to seven days, and are self-limiting. Complications of the infection requiring hospitalisation are rare and no fatal cases have been detected to date.Further updates will be provided as deemed necessary for the public information and awareness. “MRCU continues to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquito in order to reduce the risk of transmission of Zika virus”, said Dr Bill Petrie, Director of the Mosquito Research Unit (MRCU), noting that the Department monitors closely the incidence of any mosquito-borne disease in the region. “We encourage residents to help prevent mosquito breeding around yards and homes by removing potential water-containers such as discarded tyres and Styrofoam lunch boxes, and by turning over buckets and covering drums,” added Dr Petrie. For further information, contact the Public Health Department on 244-2621 or MRCU on 949-2557.