Cayman on alert as Zika spreads to US and Jamaica

| 02/02/2016 | 23 Comments
Cayman News Service

Aedes aegypti mosquito

(CNS): Now that Jamaica has reported its first case of the Zika virus and there have been several cases in the United States, Cayman Islands public health officials are on alert for its likely arrival in here in the coming months. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global emergency and efforts are being made locally to keep the mosquito-borne disease at bay, but given the speed with which the virus is spreading, Cayman is still at risk.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Samuel Williams said the country must be vigilant but remain calm. Although research shows that 80% of Zika cases are non-symptomatic, scientists believe that if pregnant women contract the virus there may be an increased risk of Microcephaly in the child, a condition where the size of infant’s head is smaller than normal because of slowed or incomplete brain development.

Following meetings with local stakeholders, Williams confirmed that officials are taking the situation seriously and will continue to look out for neurological syndromes and congenital malformations, and will observe clinical management, including follow-up for pregnant women and newborns and prevention control measures.

There have been no reported cases in the Cayman Islands so far. “With the proximity and transient visiting population from the US and Jamaica to Cayman, all health services providers have been asked to remain on alert in identifying any symptoms presented by patients,” Dr Williams said.

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

“We are asking the public to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families. They can do this by wearing long sleeves and long pants when outside during times mosquitoes are abundant and by always using mosquito repellent containing DEET on the skin,” Williams said. “We cannot stress the importance of preventive measures enough. While the ministry and its affiliated departments will continue to do everything possible to minimise the impact, if the virus is introduced, it will also take personal responsibility from each and every member of the public to ensure the virus is contained.”

Director of the Mosquito Research Control Unit William Petrie said residents need to keep their surroundings clean, ensuring that stagnant water is removed on a weekly basis to prevent mosquito breeding sites. The vector mosquito for Zika virus is the Aedes aegypti, a mosquito that breeds close to where humans live and work. Items such as tyres, trash, open containers and plastic bags can collect water in which the Aedes aegypti can breed.

Premier Alden McLaughlin, who is also the health minister, said, “Cayman is no stranger to mosquito-borne diseases. We were well prepared in combatting Dengue and Chikungunya and now we are confident we will have control of Zika if it reaches our shores. The public can be assured full and undivided support of the ministry of health. The MRCU and members of the local health industry are trained and ready to put into action the procedures necessary to combat the Zika virus. I have no doubts in the level of expertise and attention given to this by all health services providers.”

Zika virus fact sheet 1

Zika virus fact sheet 2

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Comments (23)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Things like that can bring tourism to grinding halt.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “Pandora’s Box: How GM Mosquitos Could Have Caused the Zika Virus Outbreak.”by OLIVER TICKELL.
    And this is the key question: how – if indeed Zika really is the problem, as appears likely – did this relatively innocuous virus acquire the ability to produce these terrible malformations in unborn human babies?
    The idea of the Oxitec mosquitoes is simple enough: the males produce non-viable offspring which all die. So the GM mosqitoes are ‘self-extinguishing’ and the altered genes cannot survive in the wild population. All very clever, and nothing to worry about!

    But in fact, it’s not so simple. In 2010 geneticist Ricarda Steinbrecher wrote to the biosafety regulator in Malaysia – also considering a release of the Oxitec mosquitoes – with a number of safety concerns, pointing out the 2007 finding by Phuc et al that 3-4% of the first generation mosquitos actually survive.
    The genetic engineerig method employed by Oxitec allows the popular antibiotic tetracycline to be used to repress the lethality during breeding. But as a side-effect, the lethality is also reduced by the presence of tetracycline in the environment; and as Bernish points out, Brazil is among the world’s biggest users of anti-microbials including tetracycline in its commercial farming sector.

    Browse for the full article.

  3. Anonymous says:

    For the average person, the Zika virus is no big deal. Most people never even have symptoms, and those that do have red eyes and feel like the flu. The infection usually clears up within a few days.

    In rare cases, Zika can cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder that can lead to life-threatening paralysis.

    Oxitec was criticized by organizations worldwide when it released 3.3 million GM mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands in 2009 without consulting the public, and without independent oversight. The biotech company went ahead and expanded its operations to Malaysia and Brazil, despite protests.

    So far, Oxitec has only gained regulatory approval to release the mosquitoes in Brazil. The mosquitoes are only being approved in other countries on a case-by-case basis.

    Don’t mess with nature.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I guess Zika already was (and is) in FL

    “It’s a miracle – How Jaxon, the baby given days to live when he was born with most of his skull missing, has defied the odds – and is celebrating his first birthday. DailyMail September 26,2015”

  5. Anonymous says:

    The advice to pregnant women is sadly lacking. It is not only women that need to avoid mosquito bites, but also their sexual partners. Condom use is not even mentioned. And if the pregnancy is being monitored and it is discovered that there is microcephaly, then what? Will abortions be available at an early stage?

  6. Anonymous says:

    We are asked to rid our yards of standing water and yet The Planning Dept has for years allowed housing developers to dig drainage ditches around their developments which fill with stagnant water.

    The type of mosquito that spreads these diseases lives around residential areas and the drainage ditches are a perfect breeding ground for them. Shame Planning allowed the developers to do things cheaply instead of making them put in proper underground drainage. It does seem ridiculous that we are told to get rid of any standing water when these contradictions exist.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thank goodness for the Oxitec trials and the 90% success rates produced in the Cayman and other experiments. It gives one of the best chances of controlling this and other diseases.

  8. Mosquitos says:

    The MRCU will beat this people in the Cayman Islands don’t know that we have the best Mosquito control program in the world.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I have Oxitec and their GM mosquitos on my mind.
    The Ecologist online magazine makes for some interesting reading these days.

    Fact: Not all genetically modified die as claimed by the company. Between 4-12% of them can go on to live and reproduce in the ecosystem.

    Whereas a sinister plot for population control is a fetch too far, the reality of a man-made “oops” is very, very likely. There is more than enough correlation and coincidences to warrant an investigation in that regard.

    By the way, who was responsible for the go-ahead for the local experiments and GM mosquito releases? We only heard of it after the fact. Thanks for that!

    • Anonymous says:

      And man never walked on the moon, vaccinations cause autism, Kennedy was shot by the CIA and 9/11 was staged by Americans.

    • Anonymous says:

      An excellent post. It is funny how so called educated people will give you the thumbs down when your truthful comment does not meet their dishonest agenda.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you poster.

        Further to your point, we can only imagine how the reaction would have been had I signed off as usual. However, sometimes we have to save people from themselves.

        (Many will begin to connect the dots … so we can expect the usual rhetoric any second now …)


  10. Oh no says:

    The first known case of the Zika virus being sexually transmitted in the US has been reported in Texas.
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a patient was infected in Dallas County.

  11. Anonymous says:

    In an effort to get ahead of the ball on this, how many Zika IgM test kits have public health actually ordered? Are they ELISA test kits or RT-PCR and which manufacturer? Due to the short illness window, it is important that results are known promptly. We can’t be sending serum to labs overseas for a diagnosis a week later.

  12. Mosquitos says:

    Now the government should pay the staff at the MRCU the back pay since 2011 that they worked very hard for let’s see if it happens now that the Country needs them again.

  13. cayman says:

    Can they utilize Ebola tent somehow?

  14. Anonymous says:

    Basically, we should all be actively reducing and clearing urban Aedes Aegypti habitat. Nobody wants to get Dengue, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever, Encephalitis, or Zika. We don’t need to wait until first cases here to start taking household and neighbourhood action. If only 1 in 5 carry symptoms, it could be here already and we wouldn’t necessarily know.

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