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It is important that women who are pregnant take all necessary action to protect themselves from contracting the Zika virus

Published 1st February 2016, 4:51pm

Following the continued regional outbreak of the Zika virus, local medical personnel remain on high alert. To this end, a travel advisory has been issued by the Public Health Department recommending all residents avoid non-essential travel to all affected countries.

The Zika virus transmission has been documented in the following Latin American and Caribbean countries: Brazil, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Martinique, Paraguay, El Salvador, México, Suriname, French Guiana, Guatemala, Panamá, Venezuela, Guyana, Haití, Barbados, Ecuador and St. Martin.

Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Samuel Williams said international travel can put persons at risk for the Zika virus. If someone is bitten by an infected mosquito in countries where Zika exists, the infection can be acquired and brought back to Cayman. It is therefore paramount the public protect themselves from mosquito bites by using mosquito repellents, wearing long sleeved clothing and pants tucked into socks during travels.”

Dr. Williams said his department remains confident as, “Staff of the Health Services Authority (HSA) and other local medical services providers have been advised to look for any local cases. As of Monday, 1st February 2016, there have been no suspected cases in the Cayman Islands.”

“It remains especially important that women who are pregnant or who plan to become pregnant take all necessary action to protect them from contracting the disease, as this can present complications with the foetus, in particular microcephaly,” he added. Microcephaly is an abnormal smallness of the head, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development.

There is no Zika vaccine available to prevent; or medicine available to treat Zika thus, identification and containment of an outbreak of this or any other nature is a top priority for Public Health. Dr. Williams confirmed that should there be any future cases the local laboratory, headed by Ms. Judith Clarke, has ensured arrangements are in place with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad for further laboratory testing.

The Cayman Islands Public Health Department has stated that it is very likely that the virus will be introduced in the country and the Public Health Department, Mosquito Control and Research Unit, and other agencies are preparing to limit local transmission and prevent an outbreak.

The symptoms of the Zika Virus are very similar to that of Dengue and Chikungunya; they include fever, muscle and joint pain, conjunctivitis, headache, nausea, and rash. There is no vaccine or treatment; however, symptoms (which last approximately four to seven days) are treatable.

Symptoms usually appear following an incubation period of three to 12 days after the bite of an infected mosquito, lasting between four to seven days, and are self-limiting. Complications of the infection requiring hospitalisation are rare. However, 3 fatal cases have been detected to date in Brazil.

ZIKA Virus Fact Sheet
ZIKA Virus Fact Sheet