ZIKV ALERT – Ministry issues warning as virus reaches Puerto Rico

In light of reports that the Zika Virus (ZIKV) has been detected in several neighbouring countries including Puerto Rico, the Ministry of Health is warning persons to be on the alert in the event that the mosquito-borne illness reaches the territory.

“The Zika Virus is now present in the OECS, Martinique and Puerto Rico and considering the volume of travel between the BVI and these islands, there is a need for increased surveillance and heightened awareness of this virus and its impact on human health,” said Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ronald Georges.

He warned that there is no specific medicine or treatment for the Zika Virus infection, which is also linked to possible birth defects, but persons who suspect that they are affected should visit their health care provider.

According to Dr Georges, persons should also take better control of their surrounding in order to control the spread of the virus.

“Prevention and control is fundamental to avoiding transmission of the virus. As a result, the Ministry is encouraging persons to take better control of the environment by eliminating mosquito breeding sites in households and common areas.”
“Personal prevention should be heightened by using mosquito bed nets which can also be treated with insecticide; wearing clothing that does not expose the skin, using mosquito repellents as well as installing wire mesh screens at windows and doors,” he urged.

A release from the government stated also that the Peebles Hospital laboratory is ready for testing of samples from suspected cases, and has established procedures for use by other local health care providers.

The government said that in addition, the Surveillance Officers at the Environmental Health Division will continue to carry out inspections and monitor areas where mosquito breeding may be occurring or areas where suspected cases have been identified.

Dangers of Zika Virus

A regional alert was issued recently by the Pan American Health Organisation. The Zika virus is transmitted by the same Aedes Aegypti mosquito that is also the insect vector for Dengue and Chikungunya and the symptoms are also very similar.

The virus is also suspected to carry the risk of microcephaly which causes smaller than expected head sizes to occur in infants of affected mothers.

Acute symptoms can last from four to seven days and includes fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, eyeball pain, weakness, red rash consisting of small bumps, swelling in the lower limbs, anorexia, vomiting and diarrhea, abdominal pain and conjunctivitis. (BVI News)

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