Jamaica’s Health Ministry Issues Zika Virus Warning

On November 9, 2015, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) confirmed five cases of the Zika virus in a territory of the Caribbean Community.

The Health Ministry is warning Jamaicans to be more vigilant about cleaning up their environment and destroying mosquito breeding sites, in light of confirmation that the mosquito borne Zika Virus has been detected in the Caribbean.

The Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency, CARPHA, Dr. James Hospedales, is withholding the name of the country.

In a statement issued on November 12, CARPHA said the cases were confirmed on Monday.

But it has not identified the country or given no details about the infected individuals.

He says it’s a CARICOM state but noted that it’s not .

However, Consultant congenital cardiologist Dr Sandra Williams-Phillips in Jamaica says she has treated at least 12 cases of the feared mosquito-borne zika virus (ZIK-V) and that she has written to Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson on the matter.

Speaking on a daytime radio programme on October 22nd, Dr Williams-Phillips said she had received no response to her e-mail to Dr Ferguson, although she could not confirm that the minister had received her correspondence.

The medical doctor of 34 years said she was among the first local doctors to identify the presence of the chikungunya virus, which wreaked havoc on the country last year, but that her diagnoses had not been taken seriously.

Dr Williams-Phillips, who treats paediatric as well as adult cases of congenital heart disease, said some of her patients who presented symptoms of the Zika virus were children.

She argued strongly that the symptoms she had seen were convincing enough to diagnose the virus even in the absence of lab tests.

Chief medical officer (CMO) in the health ministry, Dr Marion Bullock Ducasse, said the ministry would be launching an investigation into the matter. She said that, even if the patients had recovered, tests could still prove whether they had in fact been infected with the virus.

The CMO said she could not speak on whether Dr Ferguson was in receipt of a report about the cases, but that no official report had come to the ministry from St Catherine, where Dr Williams-Phillips said she treated patients, via the standard reporting system for these types of events.

The CMO has maintained over the past several months, that there are no confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Jamaica. In October, the ministry said a sample which it had sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in September tested negative for chikungunya, dengue and Zika viruses.

The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) in May issued a warning about an outbreak of Zika in Brazil and said there was potential for it to spread to other countries.

The virus has previously been reported in Colombia and Suriname and suspected in the Dominican Republic.

The virus causes symptoms which are similar to CHIKV and is transmitted by the same vector — the aedes aegypti mosquito.

Symptoms include fever, muscle and joint pain, headache, nausea, eyeball pain, inflammation of the eye, vomiting, diarrhoea or abdominal pain, weakness, swelling of the lower limbs and a rash.

Symptoms last between four and seven days.

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