Zika Virus Update
Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr Samuel Williams-Rodriguez has provided an update on the current status of the Zika Virus outbreak in the Caribbean region and the Americas.
The update follows a teleconference with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Jamaica, other local key stakeholders and a recently concluded Communicable Disease Surveillance Committee meeting in relation to the evolving outbreak.
The most recent activity of the Zika Virus includes three confirmed cases in Panama and two confirmed cases in Honduras bringing the total to 10 member states with confirmed cases. As at Wednesday, 16 December there are five confirmed cases in the Caribbean region. There is no further evidence to show the virus has spread to any other Caribbean countries.
Circulation of Zika Virus (ZIKV) in the Americas was first confirmed in February 2014 on Easter Island, Chile and cases were reported there up to June 2014.
Dr Samuel Williams-Rodriguez notes, “While we continue to keep the public updated on the spread of the virus in our region, I encourage all to exercise caution against being bitten by mosquitoes. This is especially true for women who are pregnant”.
Dr Williams explained this alert to pregnant mothers is against the background that the mosquito borne disease Zika Virus has been epidemiologically linked to an increase in incidence of Microcephaly (a condition where the size of an infant’s head is smaller than normal, because of slowed or incomplete brain development) noting a coincidence with the Zika Virus outbreaks in Brazil.
Even though Microcephaly can be caused by other factors including those that are inherited, it can also occur as a result of exposure to the fetus in the mother’s womb by certain infections which are contracted in the first trimester of pregnancy. However this association is still under investigation.
In addition, Dr Williams Rodriguez expresses his thanks to all health practitioners for their continued vigilance, including surveillance for neurological syndromes and congenital malformations, clinical management, including follow up for pregnant women and newborns, and prevention control measures.
The PAHO has expressed confidence in the level of preparedness of Public Health Officials – including the Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) – in the Cayman Islands regarding mechanisms in place to detect, respond and control the spread of the Zika Virus.
Premier and Minister of Health, Hon. Alden McLaughlin said the group’s work on the preparedness for the possible introduction of the Zika Virus in the Cayman Islands has the full support of his Ministry.
“Our various departments on the ground continue to work assiduously to ensure that in the unfortunate event that we have imported cases of the virus, it will be quickly contained”, said Mr. McLaughlin.
Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez assures residents of the Cayman Islands that all Zika related recommendations and updates will be reviewed, updated and made known in the public domain as new evidence of the disease becomes available.
1. Zika outbreak in the Americas
Zika virus confirmed in 10 member states of the Americas: Brazil, Chile (on Easter Island), Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and Honduras.
2. Symptoms of the Zika Virus
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. However, 3 fatal cases have been detected to date in Brazil.