HSA lab can now test for zika

| 22/09/2017 | 5 Comments
Cayman News Service

HSA lab’s new equipment

(CNS): Mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue, zika and chikungunya, can now be identified much more quickly in the Cayman Islands. The Health Services Authority reports that its laboratory is now one of the three laboratories in the region that is internationally accredited with the full capabilities to test for viral diseases that may pose a threat to public health. The other laboratories are in Jamaica and Trinidad.

The HSA said the waiting time for confirmation of these diseases could now be significantly reduced. But Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr Samuel Williams Rodriquez said the samples will still be sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), noting, “CARPHA is the regional public health laboratory of a surveillance network to which authorised Caribbean countries are obliged.”

The improvements in capabilities of the lab were made possible by the acquisition of new technology, Applied Biosystems 7500 Real-Time PCR System, and training of the laboratory staff. The PCR System allows the HSA lab to conduct local testing, authorised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for the zika virus, dengue and chikungunya in a single test. Samples were previously were sent to the CARPHA laboratory in Trinidad for testing and confirmation.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Samuel Williams said authorisation by the CDC for local testing is significant as it further enhances the capabilities of the HSA to not only detect in real time certain viruses but also provides timely intervention in the management of patients and enhances public health surveillance and response capabilities.

Dr Williams commended the partnership with CARPHA and the “tremendous assistance provided to the Cayman Islands over the years”, as he highlighted the challenges faced with receiving timely results. Results from the regional lab often took three to five weeks, due to the volume of work being handled from all the English-speaking Caribbean countries sending samples to it for testing.

“This presented a challenge for clinicians in the delivery of patient care and created emotional anxieties for patients and families,” said Dr Williams.

The HSA equipment testing capabilities goes beyond the dengue, zika and chikungunya viruses, Dr Williams noted. “The equipment can also test for almost any other viruses that could pose a threat to public health, which is an important advancement of our capabilities given the emerging and re-emergence of mosquito borne viruses and other diseases in the region,” he said.

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Category: Health, health and safety

Comments (5)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I’d prefer to take my chances with the zika rather than relying on the HSA.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is the sort of thing the government has to deal with on a regular basis that there would be mass outrage if it wasn’t managed in one way or another, that residents and visitors are implicitly relying on the government to manage, so they can’t always be focused on whatever people or news organisations are bleating on about daily. Well done for investing in the protection of public health with all those fees the public hates paying.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Now that you have this lab why not have all of your blood tests done right here in GC instead of sending off blood samples to Miami? Behind the times and this business is run by incompetents.

  4. Anonymous says:

    That’s great, but how are we going to deal with “super malaria” when it turns up here? Is government looking into this? There is a real possibility that it will show up here given the number of expatriate workers here who are from that side of the world…


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