Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Sharon Belmar-George has indicated that St. Lucia has recorded no confirmed cases of the Zika Virus Disease to date, though cases have been reported in many of the neighbouring islands.
Dr. George stated that weekly samples are being sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for testing however all sample have returned negative for the Zika Virus Disease.
“The Ministry of Health, we continue in our preparation and response to Zika Virus Disease. We continue our campaigns on a community level with our stakeholders such as the Solid Waste Management Authority, the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association and the constituency councils. We have been doing intensive campaigns on the ground working at the community level to eliminate the breeding grounds for the Aedes aegypti mosquito.”
She added that campaigns to eliminate the mosquito breeding sites are planned for all communities however Vieux Fort North, Dennery, Babonneau and the Gros Islet area have had wide spread source reduction exercises.
“We have also brought up the date of our intensive annual Vector Awareness Week which we normally have between May and June. We will be having that for the 14th of March to the 19th of March and apart from the awareness that we do during that week; we will also be launching a school poster competition. We’re working closely with the Ministry of Education to use the students as well to support the message to ensure that we could tackle every single household on the island.”
A motorcade and marches round the island will also form features of Vector Awareness Week.
Dr. George said despite the reduction in rain fall the aim is to ensure there is a reduction in the breeding sites for the Aedes aegypti mosquito to reduce the possible impact of Zika on the Island.
The Environmental Health Department will continue its house to house entomological surveillance and targeted fogging exercises for areas with high mosquito indices.
“We also continue working quite closely with our regional partners, i.e. PAHO, CARPHA and the OECS on a regional level in terms of continuous updates, continuous planning on a regional level in terms of reducing the impact of the Zika Virus and as the public should be aware by now it’s the same vector which spreads the Dengue and Chickungunya Virus.”
The Medical Officer indicated that all measures employed to reduce the impact of Zika also works to reduce the impact of Dengue and Chikungunya on the local population.
However, with the Zika Virus the ministry is particularly concerned with the associated neurological complications.
“Allot of research is being done but we have also strengthened our secondary care facilities in terms of the surveillance for both Microcephaly and Guillian Barre so that if we do have an issue we would be able to pick it up early and that’s one of the important aspects of the surveillance. We have done the training for our healthcare workers both at the community level in terms of the community health centres and the secondary level at the different hospitals so that our physicians are able to diagnose the disease early and also do the necessaries in terms of sending the samples over to our lab for confirmation.”
Dr. George said the ministry has been very pleased with the response on the ground thus far from both the public and stakeholders.
She calls on the public to continue monitoring their premises and reduce the breeding sites of the Aedes aegpti mosquito.