St. Lucia Steps Up Zika Alert

Cases Reported In Barbados, Martinique.

Saint Lucia’s Ministry of Health has increased public sensitization efforts in order to reduce the possible impact of Zika on the population, following confirmed cases of the virus in the neighbouring islands of Martinique and Barbados.

Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Merlene Fredericks, said it’s only a matter of time before zika reaches Saint Lucia.

“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 has come back positive for Zika Virus Disease. But we know it’s just a matter of time.”

Zika Virus Disease is spread by the Aedesaegypti mosquito. Signs and symptoms of zika are very similar to dengue fever and chikungunya. Symptoms of zika include headache, body ache, fever and red eye in some cases.

Dr. Fredericks said the Zika Virus Disease is mild with one out of every five persons infected with the virus exhibiting signs and symptoms. There are however two major concerns: the effect zika has on the unborn child, and GuillainBarré Syndrome, a condition that affects the nervous system and can cause paralysis and death.

“What studies have shown, especially with the huge epidemic of Zika Virus Disease in Brazil right now, is that when the disease affects pregnant women in the early stages of pregnancy when the baby is just developing and the brain is being formed, the virus can affect the unborn fetus. However, for someone who is already past six to nine months, if she gets infected with zika it wouldn’t cause any abnormality because the brain would be fully formed at that time,” Frederick said, “so we are urging all pregnant women to take special precautions to ensure that they are not bitten by the mosquito.”

Even in an advanced stage of pregnancy, she warned, “if a woman falls ill with fever it can trigger premature labour, while with GuillianBarré Disease, the body gets somewhat paralyzed after someone has recovered from the virus.”

Although the Ministry of Health has recommened fogging exercises to reduce the mosquito population, Dr. Fredericks advised that the same measures and  precautions taken for dengue and chikungunya can be employed to prevent or minimize the effect of zika. She highlighted certain actions persons can take to reduce the mosquito population: get rid of breeding sites, and conduct regular inspections of premises, drums, flower vases and any receptacle containing water.

Dr. Fredericks also advocated the use of bed nets and repellents, and stressed on the use of long sleeved tops and trousers particularly for pregnant women.

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