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St Bess fearful of ZIKV

Published:Wednesday | May 20, 2015 | 12:00 AMLauntia Cuff

With news that another mosquito-borne disease, the zika virus (ZIKV), is threatening to reach the shores of Jamaica, some St Elizabeth residents are concerned about the possibility of becoming infected, especially given that they were still battling the after-effects of last year's chikungunya (chik-V).

They were even more worried because like chik-V, ZIKV is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and the parish is plagued by a large mosquito population.

Gaylyn Green, who contracted chik-V at the beginning of the outbreak, said her major concern was that she has other illnesses that may be further compounded by this new virus. She was also afraid for one of her daughters, who is asthmatic and who was badly affected by chik-V.

George Gooden did not get chik-V but saw his father suffer through it. He said he was hoping that neither of them would get ZIKV. He said at this stage, he knew very little about the disease and hoped more would be done to educate the public on the new virus.

Chairman of the St Elizabeth Parish Council Mayor Everton Fisher said the council was taking the necessary steps to reduce mosquito breeding sites with its ongoing drain-cleaning activities. He added that at least half a million dollars would be made available to the St Elizabeth Health Department for vector control.

"The council has, from about April, embarked on drain cleaning across the parish and we will not relent. I would say we are up to about 60 per cent clean, and whatever funding we receive for the month of May, it will be dedicated specifically to continue the drain-cleaning process," the mayor said.

He emphasised that it was important for residents to conduct their own clean-up exercises in their communities and desist from littering to help reduce mosquito breeding sites.


In the meantime, medical officer of health for the St Elizabeth Health Department Dr Tonia Dawkins-Beharie said the department had intensified its vector-control activities, as well as its public-education campaign across the parish.

"We have ongoing vector-control activities to mitigate against the spread of all mosquito-borne diseases, including the zika virus. What we are doing now in response to this new threat is we're vamping up our activities. We have been doing fogging in some areas across the parish, but our main strategy will be to educate the population re preventing mosquito bites and getting rid of the source of breeding," Dawkins-Beharie told The Gleaner.

"The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which causes the zika virus, is a quite domesticated mosquito, lives in and around the home, so we will be targeting communities and encouraging persons to destroy breeding sites."

She said the greatest challenge in preventing an outbreak of this virus would be the difficulty in creating a shift of behaviour in relation to mosquito breeding sites in and around homes.

"The challenge we have is to get people to change their behaviour. They hear the messages, we give out flyers and so on, but that change in behaviour in and around the home where people are vigilant and they look out for the breeding sites and destroy them, that is where our challenge is. So that's where our focus will be - how to get people to adhere to the messages to prevent an outbreak," Dawkins-Beharie stated.

"Otherwise, we have adequate material and equipment. The messages are the same as they are for dengue and chik-V in terms of mosquito prevention.