CARPHA urges caution as Zika virus spreads

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has again urged persons to take every precaution to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, especially in the wake of the mosquito borne Zika disease being detected in Suriname. Earlier this month, CARPHA confirmed five cases of the virus in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member state.

In a recent release, CARPHA’s Executive Director Dr James Hospedales said it is even more critical for women who are pregnant, with research connecting the Zika virus with birth defects.

“CARPHA is therefore reminding all persons, and especially women who are pregnant, to protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved clothing or long pants, using insect repellents, and sleeping under mosquito nets.  It is also important to destroy all breeding sites for mosquitoes in and around the home,” the statement said.

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While there is no evidence to date that Zika has spread to other Caribbean countries, Hospedales is calling on fellow CARICOM states to strengthen their surveillance programs.

“Member States must remain vigilant and step up their vector control,” says Hospedales. “Although we do not recommend any restrictions on travel due to Zika virus outbreaks, to reduce the risk of contracting the virus infection, travelers should minimize exposure to mosquito bites by taking preventative measures.”

The symptoms of the Zika virus are very similar to that of Dengue and Chikungunya and include fever, muscle and joint pain, conjunctivitis, headache, nausea, and rash. However, there is no vaccine or treatment for the disease. Symptoms which last approximately four to seven days, are treatable.

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