Number of confirmed Zika cases the ‘tip of the iceberg’

By Anika Richards
The Ministry of Health’s National Epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster-Kerr made the disclosure during a risk communication seminar at the Pan American Health Organisation’s office at the University of the West Indies, Mona yesterday.

She said that five of those cases have been identified in St Catherine, one in St Thomas and the other two in Kingston and St Andrew.

Dr Webster-Kerr pointed out, however, that these numbers are just the “tip of the iceberg”.
Explaining that the Zika virus, which is transmitted by an infected female Aedes aegypti mosquito, is new to Jamaica and that most infected people will not present with symptoms, Dr Webster-Kerr estimated that 50 to 70 per cent of the Jamaican population may become infected with the virus.
“So, of this percentage of persons who are infected, probably 25 per cent will have symptoms, but many persons, because it is so mild, most of us will stay home,” she said.

In painting a picture, Dr Webster-Kerr said the fact is that many more would’ve been infected and of those who are infected, only a few would show symptoms, and of those who show symptoms only a few would go to their doctor. She said too that of the few that visit their doctors, maybe only a few of those are reported to the ministry.

“So we should not be fooled by certain appearances,” she told reporters attending the seminar, which was hosted jointly by the Pan American Health Organisation.

Jamaica confirmed its first Zika case in January and since then the ministry has repeatedly urged people displaying symptoms such as fever, rash, eye redness, joint and muscle pain, to see a doctor, who would determine whether or not they are suspected cases and get the necessary testing done and sent to the National Public Health Lab.

Also, the ministry continues to encourage people, especially pregnant women, to do everything to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

This can be done by using insect repellent containing DEET, sleeping under a mosquito net, putting mesh on windows and doors and wearing long-sleeved clothing where possible.

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