New mosquito borne virus alert issued

| 23/05/2015 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Local public health officials have issued an alert regarding another mosquito-related illness which originated in Africa that is now being reported in the Americas. Medical Officer of Health Dr Kiran Kumar said the Pan American Health Organization has sent out a warning that the Zika (ZIKAV) virus is circulating in New Caledonia, the Cook Islands, Chile’s Easter Island and north-eastern Brazil. The virus is transmitted mainly by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and causes dengue and chikungunya like sickness.

chikungunya mosquitoHealth experts said that the infection may present itself as asymptomatic, or with symptoms that include acute fever, conjunctivitis, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, rash, swelling in the lower limbs and less frequently eye, head or facial pain, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhoea or abdominal pain. Symptoms usually appear following an incubation period of three to 12 days after the bite of an infected mosquito, then last between four to seven days, and are self-limiting.

Complications of the infection requiring hospitalization are rare and no fatal cases have been detected to date.

“Whilst there have been no cases of Zika in the Caribbean, an alert is being issued as a precautionary measure,” said Dr Kumaar. “The public is urged not to be alarmed in hearing the name of another mosquito borne disease. Instead it is encouraged to take precautionary measures against transmission, including using mosquito repellent with DEET on the skin, wearing long sleeve pants and shirts when outside during times that mosquitoes bite, whether in the Cayman Islands or on travels.”

He urged visitors and residents returning from the countries with reported cases, who experience fever and severe joint pains, to consult a physician and advise of their travel history. This will help authorities to assess and test for Zika with the assistance of the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad.

“The test is useful to determine the presence of the Zika virus in the country, but not essential for care of the sick. As this is a self-limiting disease, treatment aims only to manage symptoms such as fever and pain.  There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Zika virus,” the doctor explained.

The Mosquito Research and Control Unit began aerial spraying of the swaps this week and plan to cover the entire island ahead of the rainy season. Dr Bill Petrie, the unit’s director, said measures for controlling the spread of Zika would be the same as those applied for the control of dengue and chikungunya, since all three diseases are transmitted by the same species of mosquito.

“This mosquito breeds only in water-holding containers in yards around houses and premises, and the best way to protect yourself is to discard such containers and remove any garbage, and to cover drums which may be used for holding water – prevent mosquitoes breeding in and around your home environment. MRCU continues to make every effort to reduce populations of the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits this disease,” Dr Petrie added.

The disease was first reported among human populations in Uganda and Tanzania in 1952, followed by Nigeria in 1968. More recently in 2007, the first major outbreak of Zika virus occurred on the island of Yap in Micronesia.

Subsequently, around 10,000 cases were registered during an outbreak in French Polynesia in 2013. Seventy of these were complicated cases requiring hospitalization.  In 2014, cases were recorded in New Caledonia, Cook Islands and Chile’s Easter Island. Currently public health authorities in Brazil are investigating the possible transmission of Zika virus in the northeast part of that country.

For further information, contact the Public Health Department on 244-2621 or MRCU on 949-2557

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Category: Health, health and safety, Local News

Comments (2)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately there are a variety of mosquito-born viruses transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti vector now well established in our islands, and we know that spraying swamps will have little effect in controlling this domesticated mosquito. I am surprised there isn’t any mention or concern about Yellow Fever which although not yet holoendemic to Panama, certainly exists in portions of that country and is transmitted from infected hosts by the Aedes Aegypti. If infected travelers were to arrive here (not a far-fetched possibility), we could have another serious headline problem to contend with. An outbreak of any size would land us on the CDC website and have serious knee-jerk travel advisories issued against us from our tourist markets. Public Health ought to try to get ahead of the ball and offer a pre-emptive YFV vaccination to those in at-risk neighborhoods in Cayman. We shouldn’t leave the door open for avoidable health crises when there are effective vaccines available. Particularly since we already know the Aedes Aegypti vector mosquito has arrived in Cayman and is established now.

  2. Pesky Native says:

    Before Cayman’s loyal DOE officials again listens to their colonial masters experimental Firm Oxitec with its “Genetically Modified” mosquito. Please read just a little nah? as to how and why these diseases strains have now mutated and are spreading rapidly. But alas the financial benefits and rewards to mother is too good. The natives are so naive and none are so hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free!

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