Communication on Zika Virus Infection by Dr. the Hon. M. Perry Gomez Minister of Health House of Assembly on Wednesday, 27th January, 2016 at 10am
I rise to give you an update on Zika virus. To date, I am pleased to Report to this Honourable House of Assembly that there have been no confirmed cases of ZIKA virus infection in The Bahamas. And I am also pleased to Report that during the past months, the Ministry of Health and the Department of Public Health have been carefully monitoring the situation across the region, and, in particular, in New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Family Islands.
As of Friday January 22, 2016, Mr. Speaker, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported twenty (20) countries and territories with laboratory confirmed case(s) of Zika Virus including Colombia, Suriname, Puerto Rico, French Guiana, Martinique, Panama, Cape Verde, Brazil, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, Guatemala, El Salvador, Bolivia, Saint Martin, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Barbados, and Guyana.
Mr. Speaker, the Zika virus is transmitted primarily by the bite of an infected Aedesaegypti mosquito, the same mosquito that transmits dengue and chikungunya viruses.Persons with Zika virus infection most commonly have fever, skin rash, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). They may also have muscle and joint pain and headache. Symptoms usually begin 2 – 7 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Only one out of four to five infected people develop symptoms of the disease. Among those who do, the disease is usually mild and lasts 2-7 days.
The Zika virus infection is of major concern, Mr. Speaker, in part because of the experience in the recent outbreak in Brazil where there has been growing evidence of a link between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and a congenital abnormality in the baby called microcephaly (an abnormally small head with underdeveloped brain). There have also been reports of Guillain-Barrésyndrome (a condition characterized by generalized severe weakness that can threaten one’s ability to breathe) in persons infected with Zika Virus.
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available and the best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.
All persons planning travel to countries with ongoing transmission of the virus are being advised delay travel if feasible otherwise undertake the necessary measures to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes while travelling These include wearing long sleeves and pants and use of mosquito repellents on exposed skin.
Mr. Speaker, pregnant women and those who may be pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant, in the near future, are advised to take extra precaution to prevent becoming infected with the Zika virus. Further women, in any of these categories, who are planning to travel or having recently traveled are advised to consult with their doctor or health care team. In the meantime, ongoing monitoring of mother and baby by the Postnatal Services of the Unit in the Department of will commence as determined necessary.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform this Honourable House that the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Ministries of the Environment, Transportation and Aviation, has enhanced surveillance and prevention measures to minimize the impact of the potential introduction of the Zika virus into The Bahamas.
Targeted activities directed at mosquito control are ongoing including mosquito breeding site source reduction; fogging; and treatment of water sources in New Providence and the Family Islands by the Department of Environmental Health Services. In addition, individuals and communities are also reminded to actively participate in reducing mosquito breeding sites in and around their homes, schools, and workplaces to decrease the possibility of being bitten with an infected mosquito. Moreover, Public Service Announcements are being aired on the various radio stations on a daily basis.
Mr. Speaker, the Ministry of Health through its ongoing monitoring systems in the hospitals, the clinics and all health care facilities will also continue to monitor for possible increase neurological events presenting in all age groups which may be associated with the Zika virus infection. Ongoing surveillance of congenital anomalies in the unborn and babies born with birth defects will continue as well as the identification of any association with Zika virus infection in pregnancy.
My Ministry, Mr. Speaker, will continue to work closely with national and regional partners such as PAHO, CARHA and others for continuous surveillance of Zika virus, and the institution of prevention and control measures to mitigate potential negative impact should there be introduction of Zika virus into The Bahamas. Finally, on Thursday, 28th January, 2016, my Ministry will conduct a Press Conference in the Executive Conference Room in continuing our campaign to inform and educate the public about the Zika Virus Infection.
I thank you.