Doctors urged to send blood samples of pregnant women to national lab
The Ministry of Health is advising medical practitioners to send blood samples of pregnant women with suspected symptoms of the Zika virus (ZIKV) to the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) for testing.
Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry, Dr. Winston Delahaye, said that the test is free of cost to the patient.
For pregnant women who contract ZIKV there is an increased risk of the foetus developing microcephaly. This is an abnormal smallness of the head, which is associated with incomplete brain development.
So far Jamaica is reporting four pregnant women with the zika virus of the 21 confirmed cases.
With over 40,000 pregnancies occurring in Jamaica each year, as part of the ministry of health’s Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission Programme to monitor pregnant women and their babies, all pregnant women will be required to be tested for the zika virus.
Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton said that those who test positive for the mosquito-borne illness will be monitored throughout their pregnancy.
Dr. Delahaye said vulnerability of the unborn child “is at its highest the younger the pregnancy”.
He noted that the symptoms of ZIKV are usually mild and treatment is symptomatic, meaning that therapy is provided to ease the symptoms without addressing the basic cause of the disease.
He said pregnant women with the zika virus will be followed up in ‘high risk’ clinics.
“There will also be more frequent ultrasonography throughout the pregnancy,” he informed.
Dr. Delahaye said that final measurement of head circumference to test for microcephaly is done at the birth of the child.
Meanwhile, approximately 20,000 bed nets will be provided over the next six months to all pregnant women who visit antenatal clinics across the island. The nets are being supplied by charity organisation Food For The Poor.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised women living in areas where Zika transmission is ongoing to consider delaying pregnancy. It indicates that as much as 70 per cent of the population of a country may be infected over time.