(CNS): Public health officials have confirmed that they have received two more positive Zika virus tests on blood taken from patients in George Town with no travel history. Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr Samuel Williams-Rodriguez said that since Wednesday 17 August, ten additional results have come in from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), with two being positive. There are now five locally transmitted cases of the virus in Cayman, all of them in George Town, including the couple with the latest positive results.
The number of imported cases remains unchanged at six, but now that Cayman is witnessing local transmission, the Public Health Department is no longer testing patients who have a travel history to countries already experiencing an outbreak. However, pregnant women who are symptomatic will be tested regardless of their travel history.
With the WHO confirming that the global risk assessment on the virus has not changed, Williams-Rodriguez said Cayman would see an increase in both the local and imported cases of the virus.
“Jointly, the Public Health Department and the Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) would like to reaffirm that decisive and immediate action to protect the population has been undertaken,” he said. “Reducing the risk of people being bitten by Zika infected mosquitoes is the most effective way to prevent persons from getting the virus, and continued efforts by both departments have sought to do just that.”
MRCU Director Dr Bill Petrie explained what the MRCU is doing to help reduce the spread: “Vector control measures are scaled up in the areas identified with local transmission, and efforts continue to ensure the public is aware of how to protect themselves from bites and how to eliminate mosquito breeding sites.”
At the end of July, the MRCU began its pilot project release of genetically modified Aedes aegyti mosquitoes in an effort to eradicate the virus carrying bug. So far, hundreds of thousands of the bio-engineered bugs have been released in a controlled area of West Bay and residents who spoke to CNS have all reported a significant decline in that type of mosquito.
The original plan to spread the pilot project across Grand Cayman includes releasing the GM mosquitoes in George Town but not until much later in the year. It is not clear if there are any plans to change that schedule and to begin releasing the adapted insect there sooner.
CNS has contacted the MRCU to ask how the West Bay project is going and for the current plans for the project’s expansion and we are awaiting a response.
In the meantime, in addition to ongoing public education, special town hall meetings are being organised to address concerns specially relating to microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome caused by the Zika virus, Dr Williams-Rodriguez.
A fact sheet designed for pregnant women that addresses these concerns is being drafted and will be made accessible to the public. There will also be public service announcements.
For more advice on mosquito control, contact the Mosquito Research and Control Unit on 949-2557 in Grand Cayman, or 948-2223 on Cayman Brac; and the Department of Environmental Health (DEH) on 949-6696 in Grand Cayman, or 948-2321 in Cayman Brac. For further information on Zika, please contact the Public Health Department at 244-2648 or 244-2621.
Although there are now a growing number of reports disputing the connection between Zika and the birth defects, there are still concerns about the risk. Pregnant women in general, including those who develop symptoms of Zika virus infection, are still advised to see their healthcare provider for close monitoring during their pregnancy.
The Zika virus has been detected in breast milk, but there is currently no evidence that the virus is transmitted to babies through breastfeeding. Those planning a pregnancy should wait at least eight weeks before trying to conceive if no symptoms of Zika virus infection appear, or six months if one or both members of the couple are symptomatic. Source: World Health Organization