Spike in rashes in Portmore hints of Zika
Portmore, St Catherine
Please allow me to share my deep and growing concern about the recent outbreak of the Zika virus. I am a family physician currently practising in St Catherine.
In 2014, a new mosquito-borne virus reached the Caribbean. As a general practitioner working in St Catherine, I dutifully read up about it, and, in an effort to protect patients, began to encourage mosquito-bite avoidance for patients and families, and mosquito control.
A few months later, we began seeing patients with a constellation of symptoms, including high fever, joint pains, headaches, vomiting, weakness, rash, enlarged lymph nodes, etc. Most doctors had never seen this illness before. It fit the picture of chikungunya, but without the test results, we could not be certain. The results were lagging behind by about two months, so unfortunately, the Ministry of Health could not verify for a while that the virus was indeed here in epidemic proportions.
The rest we all know: several very sick patients, a few deaths directly or indirectly linked to it, thousands of man-hours lost, and, for some, debilitating joint pains that lingered for months.
Fast-forward to 2016. Some doctors are recently seeing an outbreak of patients with rash, and on further questioning, the patients do admit to fatigue, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes. So, what are we seeing?
It is known that about 80 per cent of persons who contract the Zika virus don't get ill, and of those that do, 90 per cent present with a rash. Put another way, if 100 patients get the virus, about 80 don't need to visit the doctor, 18 will get a rash with mild symptoms, and two will have more severe symptoms. Once again, results are lagging, but it looks like Zika is here.
Unlike 2014, there is no uproar yet, because the illness is mild. Most persons continue working or attending school. We will, however, see the REAL effects in nine months when the babies are born. More and more research shows that this virus is associated with microcephaly.
Although the Government has advised delaying pregnancy, none of my patients seem to be taking this seriously. We still seem to have the attitude that 'it can't happen to me'. People don't realise that microcephalic babies, if they survive, will grow up to be microcephalic adults who will probably be in need of care their whole lives, the sort of care we cannot afford.
Such children will be physically and mentally challenged, and although some will be loved and cared for, most will be a burden to the family and society for the duration of their lives.
Please help to get the word out to all youngsters and anyone currently considering having a child, since we know sexual transmission is also possible. This impending problem is entirely avoidable. You must protect yourself from mosquito bites. This is very difficult and entails using several methods at once. Wear long sleeves, long trousers/skirts, socks, and still apply repellent. Sleep under a mosquito net while using a mosquito repellent mat or coil in the room.
Spray houses when leaving for the day, even though they are screened. Spray workplaces when leaving in the evening/night. Destroy all breeding sites in and around homes and offer to help your neighbour do the same. If you are pregnant or plan to conceive, please talk to your doctor about protecting yourself and your unborn child. It can be done. We cannot rely on the Government alone to do this, as we know fogging can only decrease mosquito numbers by so much.
The events in Brazil have warned us, and we need to heed this warning. The consequences of ZIKV will last even longer than those of those of chik-V.