ZIKV, H1N1 fights intensify
In light of the increasing threat to public health being posed by the mosquito-borne Zika virus, as well as the H1N1 influenza virus, a heavy contingent of health workers will this week hit the road in an intensified fight to stem the spread.
Health Minister Dr Christopher told The Gleaner yesterday that an islandwide sensitisation and clean-up programme will be launched in a few days.
"This week, you can expect that a lot is going to happen," he declared.
With the country now recording four confirmed cases of the Zika virus (ZIKV), and the death toll from H1N1 rising to six from 69 confirmed cases, Tufton said he, too, will be taking to the streets to aid with the sensitisation and clean-up operations.
"In the case of the three additional cases of the Zika virus, the trigger response is to heighten the activities in those areas," the newly appointed health minister said.
Asserting that focus will be centred on clean-up, fogging and public education across the island, Tufton said the areas of primary focus will be communities across St Thomas and St Catherine where the additional cases were detected. He said the response would be similar to what was done in Greater Portmore, St Catherine, where the first ZIKV case was confirmed.
"A lot of the activities are going to happen in the affected areas this week, in addition to the launch of a clean-up and sensitisation programme," he said. "I have Manchester on the list for this week, as well."
"We had visited over 4,000 locations in and around the site in Greater Portmore," said Tufton. "Once you find an affected case, it automatically suggests that the mosquitoes could have been infecting other persons."
He disclosed that temporary health workers would be deployed to the affected areas.
He added, "It is almost a daily issue, because the tests that are being done are continually monitored."
"We continue to provide information to the public and health-care professionals with whom we have direct contact. We keep them informed as to where we see the vulnerabilities and, in particular, where the infected persons are."
Tufton stressed, "The public also plays a vital role by taking precautionary action. When they sense a symptom, they need to go to their doctor, and when they go to their doctor, it is the doctor who determines whether there is an issue that necessitates a test."
He said that now that the facilities to test for both ZIKV and H1N1 are in Jamaica, results are available within a relatively short period.
He noted that it was the newly upgraded virology lab at the University of the West Indies that confirmed the additional ZIKV cases.
"The lab is, in fact, working and has enabled us to deal with the situation in a speedier fashion, not just by simply getting the results of affected cases, but, more importantly, targeting areas for clean-up," said Tufton.