Wed | Nov 14, 2018

The Tranquil Way

Published:Tuesday | February 9, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Now that the Zika virus (ZIKV) has entered Jamaica, we need to ramp up the preparation process. It was thought to have been inevitable, with the heavy traffic that takes place between Jamaica and the affected countries, which seems to have been the United States in this case.

The implications for us as individuals and as a country are quite significant. The course of this infection is not usually as severe as Chik V but seems to cause brain damage when it affects pregnant mothers, especially in early pregnancy. If it turns out to be widespread, then it may cause many lost man-hours at work. It has also been associated with Guillian-Barre syndrome, a severe immune system disorder that can lead to life-threatening paralysis.

There are several ways to prepare for ZIKV. It has been recommended that those most at risk of complications be particularly careful to avoid being infected.

Now that it is here, we need to take all steps necessary to reduce the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. This includes destroying breeding sites, changing water in plant containers regularly, covering collected water properly, using larvicide in stagnant water, and fogging.

To reduce the likelihood of being bitten, we can use mosquito nets, appropriate window meshes, mosquito repellents, insecticide sprays, mosquito coils, and vapours; wear clothes that give adequate covering; and keep the house locked up when mosquito activity is greatest, that is, in the early morning and late afternoon.

The harm caused by ZIKV appears to be caused by the reaction of the immune system to its presence in the body. When we contract an infection, our immune system responds by producing antibodies. Some of these antibodies, unfortunately, can cause damage to our body tissues, or, in the case of pregnant mothers, the brain of their unborn child. These antibodies are probably what lead to the Guillian-Barre syndrome as well.

Autism is now thought to develop in this way as well, so will we see an increase in the number of autistic cases in the future? We will see. The extent to which these harmful antibodies form can probably be reduced by adopting certain measures. These include using whole grains, bright-coloured fruits and vegetables, omega 3 supplements and sources, legumes, nuts, seeds, exercise, and proper rest. There are certain supplements such as reishi mushroom and probiotics that may also help.