Public Health Ministry on alert for mosquito-borne Zika virus

Chief Medical Officer Shamdeo Persaud said yesterday that the Ministry of Public Health is on the alert for the Zika virus—a mosquito-borne disease which is transmitted by the same vector that carries the dengue and the chikungunya viruses.

Persaud, in an interview with the Stabroek News, stated that the ministry is monitoring all ports of entry and has warned Guyanese to take the necessary precautions. He advised citizens to keep their surroundings clean by cleaning their drains, getting rid of stagnated water, tyres and any other thing that could potentially be a mosquito breeding ground.

The Zika virus is spread by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. Its symptoms include severe fever, joint and muscle pains, headaches, rashes, and conjunctivitis. These symptoms usually appear within three to twelve days following the bite of an infected mosquito and last for four to seven days.

There is no vaccine for the virus and it is treated symptomatically, usually with non-steroid anti-inflammatories.

“We are urging people to destroy breeding sites of mosquitoes. Get rid of old tyres, and pots in your yards and cover your water tanks,” Persaud said.

He stated that the ministry is prepared for the virus but is working intently to prevent its entry into the country.

He indicated that the virus is a “milder” form of the chikungunya virus. “It is less severe,” he stated.

To date, there has been no reported case of death due to the Zika virus but there have been cases of deaths due to the chikungunya virus.

There were major outbreaks of the Zika virus in French Polynesia, Easter Island, the Cook Islands and New Caledonia and most recently in Brazil a few weeks ago.

“The thing about this virus, it can only be identified through testing. It can also co-exist with chikungunya or dengue,” Persaud stated.

In 2014, there was an outbreak of the chikungunya virus, which was detected in all three counties. There were over 5,000 suspected cases of the virus in the country.

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