Decreasing trend for Zika Virus Disease but high alert remains for Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Microcephaly
The Ministry of Health and Wellness has noted a decreasing trend in the number of cases of Zika Virus Disease.
The disease, which was first confirmed in Saint Lucia earlier this year, reached a peak towards the middle of June and has been decreasing ever since. However, evidence of new infections of Zika Virus Disease continues with occasional spikes in the number of cases.
Though the number of cases of Zika Virus Disease is decreasing, the country should remain on ‘high alert’ for the complications of disease, particularly the ‘paralytic type’ illness called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) as well as microcephaly and other abnormalities in babies born to Zika-infected mothers.
So far this year, the island has recorded an increase in the number of cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome as compared to a similar point in time last year. Four GBS cases have been admitted and treated to date. All of the individuals have been males ranging from 38 years to 56 years old. Some of the patients affected by this reversible, ‘paralytic type’ illness, had prior symptoms suggestive of Zika Virus Disease.
Given the possible development of abnormalities in babies born of pregnant women who have been infected with Zika Virus Disease, the Ministry is also monitoring 39 pregnant women in whom Zika Virus Disease has been confirmed in pregnancy. Approximately 5 of these women have delivered to date.
Microcephaly or other abnormalities have not been noted in any of the babies born to Zika- infected mothers so far. However, given that the effects of Zika in pregnancy are more pronounced if a pregnant women gets infected in the first 3 months of pregnancy, close monitoring of the remaining pregnant women continues.
Zika Virus Disease is generally a mild viral disease caused by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. Only 1 out of every 4 persons affected with the disease may develop symptoms such as fever, skin rash, joint or muscle pain, and red eyes. Though the mosquito is the main agent responsible for spreading the disease, it has also been shown that the virus can survive for many weeks in the semen of infected males, making sexual transmission of Zika virus disease possible.
The measures to be taken to prevent the spread of Zika virus disease are the same measures taken to decrease the spread of other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever and chikungunya. They include:
Wearing long-sleeved clothing and long pants
Using mosquito repellents on exposed limbs and on clothing
Utilizing bed nets and installing window and door screens where possible
Getting rid of all breeding sites of mosquitoes such as old tyres, plastics and other refuse around the home; using soil instead of water in flower vases; ensuring that drums are properly covered and water tanks are properly sealed
Performing at least once weekly inspections of your home and surroundings, workplaces and schools, to ensure that there are no breeding sites for the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
The Ministry continues its fogging operations and mosquito surveillance, as well as health promotion activities, to decrease the impact of Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases.
For more information, please contact the Chief Medical Officer at 468-5309.