Tue | Oct 17, 2017

Youth workers eager to prevent spread of ZIKV

Published:Wednesday | December 16, 2015 | 12:00 AMAnastasia Cunningham
Health Minister Horace Dalley (centre) greets youth volunteers before the start of the Ministry of Health Youth Workers Sensitisation session: ZIKV Preparedness Enhanced Vector Control Programme at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston yesterday.

Hundreds of youth flocked to the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston yesterday eager to play their part in preventing the zika virus (ZIKV) from crippling Jamaica the way chikungunya (chik-V) did over a year ago.

In fact, the Ministry of Health has also been adamant that should the mosquito-borne ZIKV reach Jamaica, now an epidemic in 10 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, it would do what was necessary to not have a repeat of the chik-V crisis.

Part of that effort includes the recruitment of 1,000 youth health-care workers from across the 14 parishes who will be charged with disseminating health-promoting messages such as how to reduce mosquito-breeding sites and how persons can protect themselves from mosquito bites in communities across Jamaica.

Yesterday was the launch of the project as the youth workers began the first week of training in and sensitisation on Jamaica's ZIKV preparedness and response.

"I am quite enthused. I think this is a very good project, and everyone should be involved in it and make it a collaborative effort. I saw what chik-V did, and if I can do my part to prevent that from happening with ZIKV, that would be good," youth health-care worker Jamani Shaw, from Kingston, told The Gleaner.

Michelle Harris from St Catherine said: "This is a good initiative. I didn't realise the many places mosquitoes can breed in - right in my own home - until I saw the presentation this morning. I really learnt a lot about the mosquito-breeding sites."

 

To start this week

 

The youth health workers, who will each be paid $7,500 per week, will begin the ZIKV sensitisation work this week, moving throughout the communities handing out flyers to householders. Where they observe breeding sites, they are to report them to the health department, which will then destroy the mosquito larvae.

The first set of 300 persons will roll out in the South East Regional Health Authority (St Catherine, St Thomas, Kingston, and St Andrew), and subsequent regions and parishes will follow.

The zika virus is transmitted from human to human by the bites of infected mosquitoes of the aedes species, particularly the Aedes aegypti, which also transmits dengue, chik-V, and yellow fever. There have been reports of non-vector borne transmission of ZIKV through perinatal and sexual intercourse. Blood transfusion has also been identified as a potential means of transmission.

Entomologist Sherine Huntley-Jones said there were 68 species of mosquitoes in Jamaica and not all transmitted diseases. The Aedes aegypti, which is endemic to Jamaica, is the chief culprit. It also exclusively feeds on humans.

She also pointed out that despite popular belief, fogging only controlled 30 per cent of the mosquito population, community participation being "the main control method, so every householder has to take responsibility to reduce mosquito breeding".

 

Reduce the spread

 

Huntley-Jones added: "While we cannot prevent it from coming, we can reduce the spread. If we continue to breed these mosquitoes, we will continue to have the spread of ZIKV, chik-v, dengue, and yellow fever."

Dr Noreen Jack, the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) representa-tive in Jamaica, told the youth that with the virus moving from continent to continent, and at a rapid pace, its introduction to the Caribbean region was inevitable.

"The zika virus has to be taken seriously as it poses a serious threat to newborns. It is very important to prevent the spread and reduce the vector, and this requires action by all, so working with the communities and families is very important," she said.

Noel Arscott, whose local government ministry is partnering with the health ministry on Jamaica's ZIKV preparedness and response, lamented that Jamaicans had a careless attitude towards the disposal of garbage, and if the culture did not change, the country would continue to face serious challenges.

anastasia.cunningham@gleanerjm.com