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SVG records first Zika case on Union Island

SVG records first Zika case on Union Island

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With the mosquito-borne Zika virus spreading swiftly throughout the region since 2015, this country has now recorded its first case on the southern Grenadine island of Union Island.

This was officially announced at a press conference held by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment last Wednesday, after Minister of Health Luke Browne revealed it during Parliament the previous day.{{more}}

Speaking at the press conference, epidemiologist Dr Rosmond Adams confirmed that of the 12 samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) laboratory in Trinidad, only one tested positive for the disease, which, although unproven, has been suggested to be strongly linked to the development of microcephaly in babies born to mothers who contracted the virus during pregnancy.

The positive sample was confirmed by CARPHA on Tuesday, February 23, and belonged to a 34-year-old female (non-pregnant), who resides on Union Island.

The woman first experienced symptoms (fever, headaches, chills, coughing, weakness to the lower extremities, vomiting and flu-like symptoms) on February 15, and sought medical attention on February 16, when a sample was taken and sent to CARPHA.

“The patient was hospitalized for two days… treated then discharged. The patient… has since recovered,” explained Dr Adams.

“Neither the patient nor the other inhabitants of the home had any history of any recent travel. So, there was no travel to any countries with active transmission of the Zika virus.”

Chief medical officer Dr Simone Keizer-Beache said that the Ministry’s response plan has been activated and that this phase is “designed to allow us to contain, identify, reduce the risk of spread and manage the situation and act quickly,” assuring that the Ministry will continue to inform and keep the public up to date.

A team will also be dispatched to the Union Island community to conduct epidemiological and environmental assessments and mitigation activities.

“Our focus must be on source reduction. We need to reduce the mosquito vector. As long as we have the vector in country, everyone remains at risk,” she implored.

The chief medical officer urged persons to continue protecting themselves by destroying possible breeding grounds, wearing protective clothing, using mosquito netting in bedrooms and at windows, and using long-acting repellants such as ‘Off! Deep Woods’.

Additionally, she explained that persons (especially pregnant women) who suspect that they have contracted the virus will be tested free of charge, but only if they present to their clinics and hospitals no later than two to three days after first exhibiting symptoms.

“At some point, if we continue to have cases and it’s then determined that this is a widespread situation, the routine testing stops, and at that time we will only be testing particular groups. For example: people who are admitted to hospital, vulnerable people or we might only be testing pregnant women who are symptomatic.”

Keizer-Beache further cautioned that even if persons discover they have the virus, they should continue with their precaution methods (especially usage of repellant) to avoid further transmission of the disease.

Minister of Health Luke Browne also addressed the briefing, pointing out that the quick detection of this case shows that the Ministry’s surveillance and detection systems are “up and running”.

“Not only are these systems up and running, but we are prepared to share information with the media and the Vincentian public as soon as the information comes to light,” said Browne.

He explained that even before the Zika virus reached Vincentians shores, his Ministry has been doing its utmost to sensitize the public on the symptoms, and ways persons can contribute to curbing its spread.

Browne said that a “full scale health promotion campaign” is in effect at present, with health officials going into the communities and schools to spread the message of Zika detection and prevention.

Additionally, there will be extra vigilance at ports of entry and health centres to ensure that any breeding grounds have been identified and eradicated.

Browne expounded that all these measures are designed to “dramatically lower” the presence of mosquitoes by the beginning of May.

“We hope that we can work on this matter as a nation… This problem requires the national energies of everyone!” (JSV)

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