Jamaica on alert following outbreak of mosquito-borne Zika virus

ferguson on zika

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Kevin Harvey (left) and Minister of Health, Dr. Fenton Ferguson (right) participate in the 68th World Health Assembly being held in Geneva, Switzerland from May 18 -23, 2015. (Photo: JIS)


KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday May 20, 2015 – Jamaicans are being put on alert following an outbreak of another mosquito-borne illness, the Zika virus.

Following meetings at the World Health Assembly now taking place in Geneva, Switzerland and a warning issued by the Pan American Health Organization regarding an outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil and its potential to spread to other countries, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Dr. Kevin Harvey has urged citizens to take the necessary precautions to rid their surroundings of any place mosquitoes could breed.

The Zika virus, also known as ZIKV, is transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same mosquito that transmits chikungunya and dengue.

Brazil confirmed its first cases of the Zika virus earlier this month.

“The Ministry of Health is taking this potential threat very seriously. I urge Jamaicans to do their part to prevent mosquito breeding and so help to reduce any possibility of the introduction of the Zika virus into the island. There is no specific vaccine or treatment for the virus and so personal responsibility is key,” Harvey said.

“The Aedes aegypti mosquito which spreads the Zika virus is generally found in and around places where people inhabit. Persons are urged to search for and destroy mosquito breeding sites by getting rid of old tyres and containers in which water can settle, punching holes in tins before disposing, and covering large drums, barrels and tanks holding water.”

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Marion Bullock-DuCasse told The Gleaner newspaper that all the necessary precautions were being taken.

“This is a virus that has never been detected in Jamaica before, and so we are taking all the necessary precautions. As with all new viruses, we will have a large number of the population that are susceptible or will become ill. The challenge is to ensure that if a case is detected, we do very rapid control measures, including urgent vector control, to ensure that we reduce the population of the mosquitoes that can spread the disease,” she said.

The Zika virus is from the same family as, and is similar to, dengue with symptoms that include fever, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis, headache, weakness, rash and swelling of the lower limbs.

After the bite of an infected mosquito, symptoms usually appear following the incubation period of three to 12 days. They last for four to seven days. No deaths due to the Zika virus have been recorded worldwide to date.

The Zika Virus was first isolated in 1947 in a Rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest, Uganda.

It was first isolated in humans in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania. Outbreaks have been seen since then in countries including the island of Yap (2007), French Polynesia (2013) and Brazil (2015).

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