While Jamaica has not yet seen any recorded cases of the Zika virus, there have been confirmed cases in other countries in the Caribbean such as Haiti and Barbados as well as in South American countries such as Brazil, where the virus is suspected of causing over 3,500 babies to be born with brain damage.
Health Minister Horace Dalley says it’s just a matter of time before the dengue-like virus makes it to the island.
Dalley stated in a press advisory that the “virus is inching closer to Jamaica as several of our Caribbean neighbours have reported cases”. It is already confirmed in nearby Haiti.
Dalley said Monday (Jan 18) in a statement that pregnant women should take extra precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
The health minister said he was, therefore, calling on every citizen to play their part in taking the necessary steps to rid their communities of the Aedes aegypti mosquito which transmits the Zika virus.
Citizens, he said, should destroy mosquito breeding sites by looking for anything in and around their immediate environment that may collect water and either keep it covered, keep it dry or dispose of it.
American’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a travel alert for people, especially pregnant women, travelling to Latin America and Caribbean countries affected by the the Zika virus.
The Zika virus is caused by bites from the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also carries the virus that causes dengue fever and chikungunya.
Microcephaly results in the underdevelopment of and abnormality in the shape of the head and brain of the foetus which conditions arise from infection during the first months of pregnancy. It has been reported that babies who develop microcephaly in the womb may not live to full term, may be born prematurely, may be still-born or may survive but with a life-long disability.
The most common symptoms of the Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.