Thu | Aug 17, 2017

No fail safe for ZIKA detection at ports of entry

Published:Friday | January 22, 2016 | 1:00 AM

While the Ministry of Health will be spending $200 million to ramp up its Zika virus (ZIKV) prevention and surveillance mechanism, Dr Kevin Harvey has said that detection at the ports of entry will remain a challenge for health officials.

"The challenge we have is that the majority of persons who will come into the island infected with this virus will not be detectable at the ports of entry. The incubation period is between three and 12 days, and, therefore, you could be perfectly well travelling from any of these countries and then get sick later on," he said.

According to Harvey: "The surveillance at the ports of entry is not our main means of prevention. What we have to do is reduce the vector, which is the mosquito at the port, and also to ensure that if it is detected in country, we identify the persons and take the steps to reduce the vector around that person."

The Zika virus has been identified in 16 countries in the Americas, including the Caribbean countries of Barbados and Guyana.

The Government is yet to issue a travel advisory or place a ban on travel to ZIKV-affected countries.

Harvey disclosed that additional fever scanners have been installed at airports and that indices of vectors at the ports of entry remain low.

"We continuously have surveillance at the ports of entry. It's one of our zero-tolerance areas, and we try to maintain indices for vectors, particularly mosquitoes, and to keep them very low to prevent any transmission in those areas," he said.

"We also would have installed at the airports the fever scanners that will help us to detect persons coming in with high fevers," Harvey added.