West must brace for Zika - Dr Tufton
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says persons living in western parishes, who have not yet had confirmed cases of the Zika virus, should not become complacent but should brace for cases as the mosquito-borne disease is likely to spread westwards.
"I suspect that we are going to see more cases in the mid and in the western sections of the island over the next couple of months. The Zika virus was imported. The first case was discovered in Portmore in someone who came into the island who was abroad, picked up the virus, brought it here and from thereon, spread it around," Tufton explained during the Ministry of Health's 'Let's Talk Health' town hall meeting at the Sandy Bank Primary School in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, on Thursday night.
"So, where it touched down first, it affected first; and so most of the cases you are finding are in
St Catherine and St Andrew. We are mobile people. A lot of you may have friends and girlfriends and wives in Portmore and you live in St Elizabeth; so chances are the mosquito may bite you up there and you carry it down here," he told community members. Dr Tufton urged residents to take precaution by destroying mosquito-breeding sites and to recognise that the Zika virus, which is said to have originated in Uganda, is a prime example that they could contract mosquito-borne illnesses without leaving the comfort of their homes and communities.
"So, over time, you are likely to see higher levels of incidences going across the country until it does a sweep of some kind. I make that point to say to you, don't take it for granted that because you don't have any confirmed cases here, that you won't have it. Don't take it for granted that it is a 'Kingston business' so you mustn't take the precautions here with the breeding sites and so on. Because chances are, it may get worse in places like St Elizabeth before it gets better, just like in Kingston," he said.
Earlier, Dr Michael Coombs, regional technical director of the Southern Regional Health Authority, which comprises St Elizabeth, Manchester and Clarendon, had indicated that St Elizabeth had no confirmed cases of Zika.
"For our region, the confirmed cases for the three parishes where Zika is concerned are four - three of those from Clarendon and one from Manchester. The parish of St Elizabeth has 95 suspected cases; no confirmed cases - and this is up to the first week in July. But we want to make the point very clear, that the fact that we have no confirmed cases in St Elizabeth does not mean we have no Zika cases here. That's because the majority of persons who are infected have no symptoms...," he said.