Public Health Issues Alert for Zika Virus
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar has received notification from the Pan American Health Organization that the Zika virus has been in circulation recently in New Caledonia, the Cook Islands, Chile’s Easter Island and north-eastern Brazil.
Accordingly the Public Health Department has issued an alert for the Zika virus (ZIKAV), which causes a dengue and chikungunya like sickness, and is transmitted mainly by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
The infection may present itself as asymptomatic, or with symptoms that include acute fever, conjunctivitis, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, rash, swelling in the lower limbs and less frequently eye, head or facial pain, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhoea or abdominal pain.
Symptoms usually appear following an incubation period of three to 12 days after the bite of an infected mosquito, then last between four to seven days, and are self-limiting. Complications of the infection requiring hospitalization are rare and no fatal cases have been detected to date.
The disease was first reported among human populations in Uganda and Tanzania in 1952, followed by Nigeria in 1968.
More recently in 2007, the first major outbreak of Zika virus occurred on the island of Yap , in Micronesia.
Subsequently, approximately 10,000 cases were registered during an outbreak in French Polynesia in 2013. Seventy of these were complicated cases requiring hospitalization.
In 2014, cases were recorded in New Caledonia, Cook Islands and Chile’s Easter Island.
Currently public health authorities in Brazil are investigating the possible transmission of Zika virus in the northeast part of that country.
Dr. Kumar stated “whilst there have been no cases of Zika in the Caribbean, an alert is being issued as a precautionary measure. The public is urged not to be alarmed in hearing the name of another mosquito borne disease. Instead it is encouraged to take precautionary measures against transmission, including using mosquito repellent with DEET on the skin, wearing long sleeve pants and shirts when outside during times that mosquitoes bite, whether in the Cayman Islands or on travels.”
In addition Dr. Kumar is urging visitors and residents returning from the countries with reported cases, who experience fever and severe joint pains, to consult a physician and advise of their travel history. This will enable authorities to assess and test for Zika with the assistance of the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad.
“The test is useful to determine the presence of the Zika virus in the country, but not essential for care of the sick. As this is a self-limiting disease, treatment aims only to manage symptoms such as fever and pain. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Zika virus”, he went on to say.
Dr. Bill Petrie, Director of the Mosquito Research and Control Unit explains that the measures for controlling the spread of Zika are the same as those applied for the control of dengue and chikungunya, since all three diseases are transmitted by the same mosquito, Aedes aegypti.
“This mosquito breeds only in water-holding containers in yards around houses and premises, and the best way to protect yourself is to discard such containers and remove any garbage, and to cover drums which may be used for holding water – prevent mosquitoes breeding in and around your home environment. MRCU continues to make every effort to reduce populations of the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits this disease”, Dr Petrie added.
For further information, contact the Public Health Department on 244-2621 or MRCU on 949-2557