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St Catherine medical officer warns citizens: - Don't take Zika for granted

Published:Wednesday | February 24, 2016 | 12:00 AMJason Cross

St Catherine Medical Officer of Health Dr Francia Prosper-Chen is the latest medical official to warn the nation of the seriousness of the Zika virus and encouraged Jamaicans, especially community leaders, to take charge of their surroundings in order to minimise mosquito breeding in and around their homes and communities. She also implored citizens to listen to Zika warnings and act on them.

Prosper-Chen was making a special presentation on the Zika virus at a joint meeting with the Rotary Clubs of Portmore and St Catherine North on Tuesday at the Police Officers' Club in St Andrew.

Rotary's International was celebrating its 111th anniversary.

"We have to take the Zika virus very seriously because there are too many unknowns. The first and most important thing that we do have control over is our homes, our backyards and, to some extent, our communities," Prosper-Chen said.

"As community leaders, that is one of the things we are charged to do - to get persons organised to clean up the communities, to go through the backyard, to get rid of breeding sites, to mobilise commu-nities. Start to use repellents, to wear appropriate clothing, at least until the threat is not here with us any longer," she said.

Prosper-Chen told the gathering that research is ongoing to determine the variety of ways Zika can be transmitted.


The primary means of Zika transmission is through vectors. A vector refers to any organism that spreads infection by conveying disease pathogens from one host to another, but is not directly responsible for causing a disease. In this case, the vector is the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

According to Prosper-Chen, although not confirmed, it is believed that the virus can be transmitted from mother to baby in the womb. Although there is no documentation of Zika transmission through breast-feeding, the virus has already been detected in breast milk. Zika has been isolated in amniotic fluid, placenta and in human semen.

Prosper-Chen also had advice for men with pregnant partners who might be at risk after travelling to Zika-affected areas.

"Men who have travelled to or reside in an area with active Zika virus transmission should abstain from sexual activities or constantly and correctly use condoms during sex for the duration of the pregnancy," she said, insisting that precautionary measure must be taken due to the uncertainty of the virus's true potential.