Despite several warnings by a number of international health agencies for women to guard against the Zika virus, Independent Senator Dr. Stephen King has said women here shouldn’t panic.
Dr. King, a former Chief Medical Officer, said the whole association between Zika and microcephaly is not yet scientifically proven and he would therefore urge women to be careful at this time.
“I don’t think we should make this assumption that because you have the Zika virus and you are pregnant, you are going to have a baby that is microcephalic or going to have some congenital anomaly,” the Senator said.
However, in some cases the virus has been linked to an increase in microcephaly in babies. Microcephaly results in babies being born with abnormally small heads, and often serious, and sometimes deadly, developmental delays.
Brazil has recorded 3,670 suspected cases of microcephaly since October. The rare defect in babies has been confirmed in almost 404 of those cases. The outbreak started in that South American country.
Meanwhile, stories of birth defects caused by Zika have drawn worldwide attention to the issue and sparked theological and scientific discussions, which has even caused the United States to issue travel warnings.
But Dr King said, “I think the jury is still out on that and in fact we know the majority of women even if they contract the Zika virus during pregnancy will not have a problem.”
Some health experts have argued that the Zika virus has been linked to birth defects in Brazil, but not in other countries where the virus has been detected.
For example, over 20,000 cases of Zika have been confirmed in Colombia but not a single case of microcephaly, or smaller than normal head size in infants have been recorded.
The United Nations has urged the countries most affected by the Zika virus, to allow women access to contraception and abortion, and women’s health advocate have been calling on countries to address the situation.
While there have not been any confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Saint Lucia as yet, several countries including neighbouring Martinique and Barbados have already recorded cases.
The Barbadian Government on Tuesday confirmed three cases of Zika in pregnant women, bringing to seven the number of people on the Caribbean island with the virus.