(Trinidad Guardian) A 13-week pregnant Belmont woman has been diagnosed with the Zika virus, even as new international research seems to be tightening the connection between the virus and the potentially devastating birth defect of microcephaly — a medical condition where babies’ heads are abnormally small.
The woman, one of nine cases confirmed locally by the Ministry of Health, will now be under the care of a specially appointed team of medical doctors who had been asked to deal with potential cases of pregnant women contracting the Zika virus in T&T.
Speaking at his weekly press briefing yesterday, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh announced the latest development, which has caused hysteria among pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant. He said the infected pregnant woman will be examined next week by members of the specially appointed team to determine if the baby was at risk of developing microcephaly.
Providing an update about the Zika cases nationwide, Deyalsingh said there were now nine confirmed cases in the country.
The latest two cases to be recorded were the pregnant Belmont victim and a 52-year-old Laventille woman.
In a release on Tuesday, the ministry confirmed the new cases after consulting with officials of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), noting the latest victims showed symptoms of rash, fever, generalised pains and conjunctivitis.
Addressing reporters during his ministry’s weekly media briefing yesterday, Deyalsingh said of the nine cases, four had been recorded in the Gulf View community in San Fernando. Expressing concern over this “cluster”, the minister said they had been working with the respective regional corporations to ensure spraying operations and home inspections aimed at reducing the mosquito population were conducted.
The Zika virus is spread by the aedes aegypti mosquito, which also transmits the dengue fever and chikungunya viruses.
Zika cases have so far been recorded in Gulf View, Belmont, Laventille, Diego Martin, Tunapuna, La Resource, D’abadie and St Ann’s.
Appealing to members of the public to protect their loved ones from contracting the virus, Deyalsingh said he was saddened, as citizens were normally slow to react to situations. However, he urged people to educate themselves about the virus and its symptoms, as well as the need to ensure a mosquito free environment. The ministry is urging people to dispose of all unwanted containers/items in their yards or environs which can collect water and become mosquito breeding grounds; cover water containers such as barrels, drums or buckets with a mosquito proof covering; ensure drains and guttering allow the free flow of water; empty and scrub the sides of water vases or use dirt or sand instead to support flowers; cover extremities when out in the evenings; use bed nets that are tightly tucked under the mattress for protection at night; and use insect repellent that contains DEET as an active ingredient.
Providing statistics, ministry officials revealed that for the months January to March, inspections and spraying operations had been carried out at approximately 187,108 homes; 303 educational institutions and 614 government buildings.