St Kitts-Nevis reports first three cases of zika

The ministry of health in St Kitts and Nevis, via the office of the chief medical officer (CMO), has officially announced receipt of confirmation from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) that three serum samples tested on September 11, 2016, were positive for the zika virus. These positive results are therefore the federation’s first confirmed cases of zika in the local population. The ministry further confirmed that these samples were sent to CARPHA at the end of August 2016, but that the Trinidad-based epidemiological agency submitted the results to St Kitts and Nevis on September 15, 2016 – largely due to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) laboratory’s inundation with over 1,300 zika test requests within the last three weeks. The ministry has officially notified all three individuals of their test results.

The ministry said that the announcement of these zika results is not cause for panic and reminded the public that the zika virus is generally considered to be a mild illness with up to 80 percent of affected persons not showing any symptoms. Symptoms include fever, rash, and body aches and pains.

In rare cases, the virus has been known to cause Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), which affects the body’s peripheral nervous system. Zika has also been confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as having causal association with microcephaly in newborns (children born with abnormally small heads) at a very low rate of 0.3 percent of cases.

As a result of the recent confirmation of zika in the general population, the environmental health department within the ministry of health will be sustaining and, in some cases, accelerating its vector control measures such as inspection, enforcement and education; fogging; ova-trapping; and eradication of mosquito breeding sites in an effort to control the spread of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries the virus.

Zika is also spread by sexual contact. As such, the ministry encouraged residents to prevent the spread of the illness via appropriate and consistent condom use, and abstinence.

The public is strongly encouraged to support the work of the environmental health department by ensuring that every effort is made to destroy mosquito breeding sites around their homes, yards and businesses, to use safe insect repellant when outdoors, to stay indoors whenever possible, and to wear long-sleeved clothing when outdoors.

Care should be taken to drain flower pots, discarded tyres, tin cans and other receptacles with stagnant water in order to discourage the breeding of mosquitoes.

The ministry of health noted that St Kitts and Nevis has now joined 46 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean with confirmed cases of the zika virus. These countries include Antigua and Barbuda, Martinique, Barbados, Grenada, St Barthelemy, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), Haiti, St Maarten, Jamaica, the British Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, Dominican Republic, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Anguilla and The Bahamas.

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