PRESS RELEASE – With confirmed cases of the Zika Virus in Martinique and recently Barbados, the Ministry of Health in St. Lucia has increased it’s public sensitization efforts to reduce the possible impact of Zika on the population.
Chief Medical Officer, in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Merlene Fredrick said it’s only a matter of time before the Zika Virus Disease is confirmed on island. “We are monitoring the situation. We are sending samples to CARPHA and so far none of the samples we have sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency have come back positive for Zika Virus Disease. But we know it’s just a matter of time.”
Zika Virus Disease is spread by the Aedes agypti mosquito. Signs and symptoms of Zika are very similar to the dengue fever and chikungunya virus. Symptoms of Zika include: headache, body ache, fever and red eye in some cases.
Dr. Frederick added that Zika Virus Disease is know to be very mild with one out of every five persons infected with the virus exhibiting signs and symptoms. There are however two major concerns that the Ministry of Health is very concerned about that of the effect Zika has on the unborn child and Guillain Barré Syndrome, a condition with affects the bodies nervous system which can cause paralysis an lead to death.
” What the studies have show, especially what’s going on in Brazil right now where they are having a huge epidemic of Zika Virus Disease, is that when the disease affects pregnant women in the early stages of pregnancy, that is even before the woman appears to be pregnant. In the first three months of pregnancy, at that very early stage when the baby is just developing its brain etc. are being formed, it has been shown that the virus can affect the unborn fetus at that stage. So for someone who has past that stage, for someone who has already past six to nine months, if the person gets infected with Zika it wouldn’t cause any abnormality because the brain if fully formed at that time.” Frederick stated.
The Chief Medical Officer however warned that even in an advanced stage of pregnancy, if a woman falls ill with fever this can trigger premature labour. “So we are urging all pregnant women to take special precautions to ensure that they are not bitten by the mosquito.”
Frederick said, “The other complication which has been show is what we call the Guillian Barré Disease which is paralysis or where the body gets somewhat paralyzed after someone has recovered from the virus.”
Through the Ministry of Health has recommence fogging exercises to reduce the mosquito population. Dr. Frederick advised that the same measures and precautions taken for dengue and chikungunya can be employed to prevent or minimize the effect of the Zika virus on island.
She highlighted certain actions persons can take to reduce the mosquito population by getting rid of breeding sites, conduct regular inspections of premises, drums, flower vases and any receptacle containing water. She advocates the use of bed nets and repellents and stressed on the use of long sleeved tops and trousers particularly for pregnant women.