Sun | Jan 21, 2018

Systems in place to monitor pregnant women due to possible birth defects associated with Zika

Published:Thursday | August 4, 2016 | 5:44 PM

The Ministry of Health has put systems in place to track and monitor all pregnant women who have tested positive and those who are suspected to have had the zika virus. Minister of Health Dr. Christopher Tufton said this will be done through the existing Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission Programme at high risk clinics throughout the island.

Some of the major high risk clinics are located at St. Ann’s Bay, Victoria Jubilee, Cornwall Regional, Spanish Town hospitals and the University Hospital of the West Indies, among others.

“Jamaica has an excellent track record in managing high risk pregnant women through the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme and so we will continue to use this model to manage pregnant women who may have been exposed to the zika virus,” he said.

As part of this initiative, public health nurses have been trained and strategically placed at all major high risk clinics to help manage and monitor pregnant women exposed to ZIKV through their pregnancy.  The list of those suspected and confirmed to have zika will be passed to this team of nurses. Obstetricians, midwives and other staff at the high risk and general antenatal clinics are also trained to manage these pregnant women.

The ministry has also distributed new delivery books designed to record and track a number of indicators, including head circumference, as part of measures to detect microcephaly and other congenital disorders. These have been in use as of August 1. Based on research and experience from other countries, the assumption is that 10 per cent of pregnant women exposed to the zika virus may have a child with microcephaly.

“The Ministry of Health is also providing counselling and psychosocial support to pregnant women and their families who are affected by zika and will continue to make this service available to all those who may need it, regardless of their zika status. We have set up an expert group of psychologists, child psychiatrists, paediatricians, neurologists and early childhood education representatives from the Ministry of Education to address the anticipated issues in the children who may be born with microcephaly and other congenital disorders,” Dr. Tufton said.

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