The Ministry of Health on Wednesday said it was advising Vincentians to take the necessary precautions in the light of the mosquito-borne Zika virus outbreak in Brazil.
Neeka Anderson-Isaacs, communications officer in that ministry, said that the virus could possibly spread to other Caribbean islands, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Zika virus is similar to dengue, with symptoms that include fever, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis (“red eye”), headache, weakness, rash, and swelling of the lower limbs.
After the bite of an infected mosquito, symptoms usually appear following the incubation period of three to 12 days.
The symptoms last for four to seven days. No deaths due to the Zika virus have been recorded worldwide to date, the ministry said.
Anderson-Isaacs said the ministry’s warning comes following meetings at the World Health Assembly taking place in Switzerland, and subsequent to a warning issued by the Pan American Health Organization.
The aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads the Zika virus, is the same mosquito that is responsible for the transmission of dengue and Chikungunya.
It is generally found in and around places where people inhabit.
Anderson-Isaacs said that persons are urged to search for and destroy mosquito breeding sites by getting rid of old tyres and containers in which water can settle, punching holes in tins before disposing, and covering large drums, barrels and tanks holding water.
“The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment takes this potential threat very seriously and urges Vincentians to do their part to prevent mosquito breeding and so help to reduce any possibility of the introduction of the Zika virus into the island. There is no specific vaccine or treatment for the virus and so personal responsibility is critical,” she said.
The professionals at the Insect Vector Control Unit continue to implement mosquito reduction measures, Anderson-Isaacs said.
The Zika Virus was first isolated in 1947 in a Rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest, Uganda. It was first isolated in humans in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania. Outbreaks have been seen since then in several countries, including the island of Yap (2007), French Polynesia (2013) and Brazil (2015).
Anderson-Isaacs said the ministry will continue to monitor the developments and put measures in place to reduce the aedes aegypti mosquito population and will update the Vincentian public accordingly.