Sat | Feb 24, 2018

ZIKV cloud comes with silver lining

Published:Monday | September 12, 2016 | 9:01 AM

For the average Jamaican, the threat of the Zika virus (ZIKV) has caused fear to spread probably more than the disease itself.

However, at least two stakeholders in the health sector have seen the virus as a silver lining in the dark cloud that has been hanging over the Caribbean and Latin America in recent months.

Dr Myrton Smith, president of the Medical Association of Jamaica, said several lessons have been learnt since the rapid spread of the virus, and, despite the many constraints that the health sector has encountered over years, there have been improvements in a number of areas.

"Certainly, ZIKV, if you look at it, is a major cloud that is hanging over our heads, but if we were to pull some silver linings out of it, it has forced us as a country, as medical professionals, and the ministry, to focus on the different aspects of health care. So primary health care, secondary health care, and even our rehabilitative services are now the focus for the sector because of what is happening with ZIKV," Smith told journalists during a Gleaner Editors' Forum held at the newspaper's offices in Kingston last Wednesday.

"We have had to beef up our primary health care in terms of our vector control. We are talking about our preventative mechanisms. We had to look at something we have been talking about for a long time, which is our capacity to manage patients who require intensive care; whether it's in an intensive-care unit or a high-dependency unit," Smith said.



He added: "For a long time, we have been talking about improving that aspect of secondary health care, and now, because of the Guillain BarrÈ Syndrome (GBS), we are forced to look at that in a more proactive way. In terms of our rehabilitative services, when we have the prospect of children being born with deficiencies, we now have to put [things] in place to deal with them, should it come."

GBS is a condition that results in paralysis and has been linked to ZIKV.

Dawn Marie Richards, public health nurse, shared similar sentiments, stating that the threat of the mosquito-borne disease has resulted in the need for more educational campaigns, which has forced leaders to pump more resources into health-care services.

"For us, we have also picked out the silver lining in the clouds because it has helped us in garnering a lot of things that we would not have normally ... . We are happy for that silver lining," she asserted.

"From a primary-care perspective, we continue to educate our patients on the virus in the antenatal clinics, in the high-risk clinics, and generally. We do the Zika education for everybody, so you don't necessarily have to be pregnant," she explained.