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Christopher Tufton | A proactive approach to fighting the ZIKV – Pt 1

Published:Thursday | June 23, 2016 | 12:00 AMChristopher Tufton
Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton.

Below are excerpts from Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton's statement to Parliament on the Zika virus situation in Jamaica.

The latest World Health Organization (WHO) situation report indicates that as of June 1, 2016, sixty countries and territories have reported Zika transmission; forty-six countries are experiencing a first outbreak of Zika virus since 2015, with no previous evidence of circulation, and with ongoing transmission by mosquitoes. As of June 1, 2016, microcephaly and other central nervous system malformations potentially associated with Zika virus infection or suggestive of congenital infection have been reported by 11 countries or territories.

Thirteen countries and territories worldwide have reported an increased incidence of Guillain-BarrÈ syndrome (GBS) and/or laboratory confirmation of a Zika virus infection among GBS cases. Based on research to date, there is scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and GBS. Given the foregoing, the WHO has advised that vigilance in countries remain high for Zika.


Zika Virus in Jamaica


Of note is that the breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquito responsible for the transmission of the Zika, chikungunya and dengue viruses is at high levels across the island. As at May 29, 2016, the Ministry of Health received reports of 2,166 notifications for Zika. One thousand five hundred and nineteen of these fit the case definition for Zika and were classified as "suspected Zika fever".

Of the 787 which were tested, 408 results have been received, of which 21 were positive for Zika virus. Two of the 21 confirmed positive are pregnant women who will be continuously monitored.

We estimate that the number of confirmed cases is just a small portion of what is actually the reality in terms of the persons who could possibly be infected. The WHO indicates that as much as 70 per cent of the population of a country may be infected over time. However:

- Only one out of four of the infected persons will have symptoms.

- Up to 50 per cent of symptomatic persons may be sick enough to need to see the doctor.

- Fewer still of those infected who visit the doctor will have their blood taken in order to confirm Zika virus infection.

- Of the persons who are ill, only about one in 1,000 may have severe symptoms.

- We have been preparing the sector for any increase in these severe forms of the illness.

The health practitioners in the public and private sectors have been informed and we have been working very closely with them.

- Clinical guidelines have been provided and are available on our website.

- We have in stock adequate supplies of the requisite medication to appropriately treat all forms of Zika manifestation.

- We are preparing our Intensive Care Units and High Dependency areas at hospitals.

- We will be getting additional ventilators, will procure more and make repairs to others that are not presently functioning.

- We are using our existing systems under the very successful Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission Programme to monitor pregnant women and their babies in our clinics. This model has worked well over the years and the staff is already trained in this regard.

We will continue our drive for the full participation of every segment of the society as we seek to reduce the impact of the Zika virus on individuals, communities, health and other sectors, productivity and the workplace, as well as the economy. In the second phase of our response, we will focus on several measures which will emphasise partnerships to increase community-based interventions and individual responsibility.

As part of this we will be:

- Providing 20,000 bed nets over six months to all pregnant women who visit our antenatal clinics. These have been provided by Food For The Poor. Food For The Poor has also provided paracetamol and fogging machines to the Zika response.

- Carrying out vector control activities through 'fogging' and larvicidal activities.

- Working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to re-institute environmental control strategies through the use of tiki tiki fish in large containers that store water, such as tanks, to prevent mosquito breeding. These will be made available through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority.

- Conducting Heightened House to House Surveillance in sections of the population where the infection has been notified and/or confirmed.

- Working with international partners such as PAHO/WHO, CARPHA and CDC to ensure that our actions are aligned with international standards and best practices.

- Working closely with the private sector and charitable organisations.

See Part 2 in the Thursday, June 30, 2016 edition of The Gleaner.