HE Ministry of Health yesterday urged Jamaican women to to delay pregnancy for the next six to twelve months given the possible connection between the Zika virus infection and the neurological condition, microcephaly.
At the same time, the ministry cautioned pregnant women to take extra precaution to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes.
The Zika virus is caused by bites from the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also carries the virus that causes dengue fever and chikungunya .
Microcephaly results in the underdevelopment of and abnormality in the shape of the head and brain of the foetus which conditions arise from infection during the first months of pregnancy.
It has been reported that babies who develop microcephaly in the womb may not live to full term, may be born prematurely, may be still-born or may survive but with a life-long disability.
The most common symptoms of the Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
Jamaicans were also urged to repair leaking pipes and outdoor faucets, cut their grass, trim shrubbery and clear roof gutters and eaves to prevent any water settlement. “Persons should also fill in and drain any low places in the yard where puddles are likely to form following rainfall,” the minister said.
For personal protection against mosquito bites, persons were also encouraged to use insect repellent containing DEET and wear long-sleeved clothing where possible.
The Ministry of Health, meanwhile, said it has heightened its alert and had increased its vector-control activities.
While Jamaica has not yet seen any recorded cases of the Zika virus, there have been confirmed cases in other countries in the Caribbean such as Haiti and Barbados as well as in South American countries such as Brazil, where the virus is suspected of causing over 3,500 babies to be born with brain damage.
American’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a travel alert for people, especially pregnant women, travelling to certain countries affected by the the Zika virus.
According to Minister of Health Horace Dalley, although there is no absolute proof that the evidence from Brazil as well as information from the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and other technical partners, is strong enough for the ministry to take a such position, it is seeking to prevent any possible negative outcome to pregnant women.
Dalley also stated in a press advisory that the “virus is inching closer to Jamaica as several of our Caribbean neighbours have reported cases”.
The health minister said he was, therefore, calling on every citizen to play their part in taking the necessary steps to rid their communities of the Aedes aegypti mosquito which transmits the Zika virus.
Citizens, he said, should destroy mosquito breeding sites by looking for anything in and around their immediate environment that may collect water and either keep it covered, keep it dry or dispose of it.