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The Health Ministry is reporting that the number of pregnant women affected by the Zika virus is now at 26.
This was disclosed by Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Marlene Fredericks during a press conference on Monday.
The CMO said that pregnant women showing signs of Zika are been monitored and tested.
While there have been no cases of microcephaly caused by Zika on the island so far, the ministry continues to monitor for any such possible cases.
“Studies and experiences in other countries have shown that there is a possibility that the baby may have abnormalities such as a small head and so its because of this possibility, we are monitoring the women closely at antenatal clinics throughout the health care sector both public and private,” Dr. Fredericks said.
The CMO said the ministry anticipates that the number of pregnant women who contracts Zika will increase.
“We would like to remind women of child bearing age and those pregnant, given the uncertainty, they are urged to take extra precaution in preventing themselves from being bitten,” she said
Prior to Zika, cases of microcephaly have been recorded in Saint Lucia. These cases however were unrelated to Zika. Some individuals infected with Zika may display no signs and symptoms of Zika.
Thus it is possible for a woman to go through her entire pregnancy showing no symptoms yet she could deliver a baby with microcephaly.
Dr. Fredericks said there has also been sufficient evidence to show that sexual transmission is also playing a significant role in the propagation of the Zika epidemic.
“We are asking men particularly to wear condoms during sexual activity to avoid the transmission of Zika virus, because it has been shown there is more evidence in males, the virus is still able to infect others… and it can remain in the semen for six months,” she explained.
Zika has also been linked to Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a rare, neurological disorder which causes muscle weakness and, in severe cases, paralysis and breathing problems, and the Ministry of Health is therefore preparing hospitals across the country in the event that persons are diagnosed with that illness.
One person infected by that disease has shown signs of being infected with Zika and is currently being treated.