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Ministry of Health ramps up Zika management efforts

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With the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring Zika in the Americas as a public health emergency of international concern, the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment in St Vincent and the Greandines (SVG) has amplified all efforts, with health care providers being briefed on the surveillance and clinical management of Zika.{{more}}

There are no reported cases of Zika virus infection here in SVG. Stringent measures are, however, being put in place to manage it, should it surface.

Environmental surveillance has also been increased, with specific emphasis at our ports. And, as part of a strategy to manage the threat of the Zika virus, a national clean-up drive is underway and is being led by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, with support from other ministries and stakeholders, and is aimed at reducing the aedes aegypti mosquito, the vector which transmits the Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue viruses.

Declaration by the WHO that Zika in the Americas as a public health emergency of international concern means that the transmission of the Zika virus has the potential to become a pandemic.

The Zika virus is a viral disease characterized by fever, rash and body aches. It is one virus of the viral family that includes Yellow Fever, West Nile, Chikungunya and Dengue. But unlike some of those viruses, there is no vaccine to prevent Zika, nor is there medicine to treat the infection.

Zika is commanding worldwide attention because of an increased incidence of microcephaly in regions with increased Zika infection. Microcephaly is a neurological disorder that results in babies being born with abnormally small heads. This causes severe developmental issues, and sometimes death.

The WHO has indicated that the experts have agreed that a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected, though not yet scientifically proven. All are agreed on the urgent need to coordinate local and international efforts to investigate and understand this relationship better.

The WHO estimates that three to four million people across the Americas will be infected with the virus in 2016. Public health surveillance is a key strategy in the fight against any disease, and entails the ongoing scrutiny of all aspects of the spread of a disease pertinent to effective control.