Environmental Health Dep’t says Zika Risks in Home Environment
A sleeper disease which emerged in the forests of Uganda in 1947 and was known only for scattered outbreaks in the Pacific Islands has since ended up as an urban public health emergency halfway around the globe.
The Zika virus is the newest concern for public health advocates in the Caribbean.
GIS News met with Chief Environmental Health Officer, Anthony Scotland on Tuesday January 5th who differentiated Zika from the more well-known mosquito-borne illnesses
“Zika gives you muscle and bone pains just like Dengue Fever but Zika also gives you conjunctivitis. Chikungunya mostly affects your joints while Dengue also gives you joint pains but with headaches,” he explained.
“Most of the time when one gets Zika, it doesn’t manifest as the disease. You may get a light fever which you may not identify as Zika. You can get the same symptoms as the common cold. This is why it is important that we keep that virus out of Dominica.”
Pregnant women are to be especially wary of this illness which is spread by the Aedes Egypti mosquito.
The virus is believed to cause severe complications in newborns.
“A pregnant woman, in her first trimester, is at risk of transmitting the virus to the foetus. Complications are being found in the infants like neurological and central nervous system problems. This is how the Zika virus is even more dangerous.”
In Brazil, 1.5 million were infected with Zika by May 2015. Subsequently, the virus has been found in the placenta of children born with abnormally small heads associated with incomplete brain development which can lead to death.
Also in Brazil, 80% of babies whose mothers tested positive for Zika were stillborn or died shortly after death.
Like Dominica now, the Brazilian population was never before introduced to the Zika virus.
With the Zika virus drawing threateningly nearer- it has been positively identified in Puerto Rico and neighbouring Martinique- health administrators are finalizing the management strategy.
“We have a constant programme for vector monitoring; we are looking at how to prevent the population from growing. Also, surveillance is ongoing at our ports of entry. We have stationed port health officers at the Douglas-Charles Airport and at Longhouse Portsmouth.
“At health districts, we have just started monitoring using blood samples of people presenting with fever to send to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for testing.
“Preparations are underway for coping with an outbreak at the hospitals and health centres. We are considering manpower and drug supplies,” he said.
That strategy focuses heavily on public education and waste management.
According to Scotland, high-risk areas have been identified where large numbers of breeding sites exist.
“Areas like Marigot, Wesley, Portsmouth Roseau, Bath Estate, Goodwill, Tarish Pit, Fond Cole, communities in the Roseau Valley and south like Grand Bay,” he listed. “Right around the country we have to step up ground surveillance in terms of house-to-house inspection and working with district health teams to reduce the indices.
The national index shows that out of every 100 homes assessed, 12 are found to be Aedes Egypti breeding sites.
The World Health Organisation recommends less than 1% to prevent disease outbreaks.
There is no treatment or cure for Zika which is why experts are saying to be vigilant about prevention.
The greatest danger is not necessarily found out in public, says the Chief Environmental Health Officer.
The most likely breeding sites for the Aedes Egypti is in an around your own home.
“The water drum is the major one. In the 80s and 90s, the main breeding area was the flower vase in your home. People have changed their behaviour and are growing their plants in potted soil. The two main culprits now are tyres and water drums.”