Suspected chikungunya cases close to 2,000, says Chief Medical Officer

-Health Ministry concerned over spread of virus

There are close to 2,000 suspected cases of Chikungunya in Guyana and health authorities believe that there might be more, according to Chief Medical Officer Shamdeo Persaud.

Persaud yesterday said so far Guyana has 86 confirmed cases based on 298 samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad. Only 115 samples results were returned.

He also stated that the Ministry was collaborating with the Pan American Health Organissation (PAHO) to monitor the situation.

Recently, the public policy advocacy group Blue CAPS sounded a warning over what it called the failure of the health authorities to address the scope of the threat posed by the chikungunya virus and it had also appealed for PAHO’s intervention to aid the management of the situation. The group has referred to the spread of the virus as “a serious health crisis” that is being downplayed by the Ministry.

Persaud yesterday acknowledged that the spread of the virus was of concern for the ministry and that it also posed a challenge. He said the virus is being spread further when infected patients are out in the open, where they are prone to get bitten by a mosquito, which will then transfer the virus to another person.

“Patients with the virus are advised to get medical treatment and quarantine themselves. The person with chikungunya should remain under the bed nets because they could infect other persons in the households if a mosquito bites them and transfer it to the other person.

Even during the day time,” he said, before explaining that the virus leaves the body within seven days after the symptoms manifest.

“The treatment could be to our detriment because sometimes people feel well and they go out—even though the virus has not left their system—and be bitten by mosquitoes which in turn would bite uninfected persons. This is posing a challenge. We have to strengthen that bit of the advisory in the medical management,” he said.

So far, Persaud noted, fogging machines and insecticides, which have been used to kill mosquitoes, were distributed to all administrative regions.

He added that fogging exercises have started in the interior areas of the country. However, he indicated that there is a need for more foggers and training in using the equipment.

Persaud was unable to say whether two laboratory technicians were selected and sent for training at CARPHA under a PAHO scholarship. He, however, stated that the CARPHA Executive Director, Dr. James Hospedales had visited Guyana two weeks ago to train junior doctors about chikungunya. He said these doctors were from the hospitals and health centres.

Chikungunya, a viral disease, is carried by the aedes aegypti mosquito and causes severe joint pains, muscle pains, sudden high fever, headaches and rashes. The symptoms are similar to dengue fever and usually surfaces between four to seven days after a bite from an infected mosquito.

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