Statement on Zika Virus Case

The following is a statement by the Minister for Health of the Commonwealth of Dominica, the Honourable Dr. Kenneth Darroux:

The Ministry of Health and Environment wishes to inform the general public of a laboratory confirmed case of Zika Virus infection in Dominica at this time. This confirmed case does not have any history of travelling outside of Dominica in the recent past and constitutes a locally transmitted (autochthonous) case. The patient has since recovered well, is currently at home and all immediate contacts have so far been deemed healthy. To date, a total of thirteen samples have been tested for Zika virus with only one being positive.

The Ministry of Health and the Environment wishes to reassure citizens that THERE IS NO NEED FOR ALARM. I REPEAT THERE IS NO NEED FOR ALARM.

Since May 2015, the geographical distribution of zika virus has steadily broaden to 36 countries in the Americas and the Caribbean including the neighboring islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique and the emergence of the virus in the Americas, has been associated with an increase in cases of microcephaly in Brazil, leading the experts at the World Health Organization to strongly suspect a relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly as well as the neurological disorders i.e. Guillain Barre´, Meningoencephalitis, amongst others.

Microcephaly is a rare condition where a baby’s head circumference is less than expected based on the average for their age and sex and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a sickness of the nervous system in which a person’s own immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness, and sometimes, paralysis.

Although the Zika virus disease is mainly transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti, a number of other transmission modes are still under investigation, such as sexual transmission and people with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema), and conjunctivitis which usually last for 2-7 days.

At present, there is no specific treatment or vaccine available…..thus the best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites and persons who have fever, rash and conjunctivitis are advised to report to the nearest health centre or their personal health care provider.

Ever since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika as ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’ on February 1st 2016, the Ministry of Health and, by extension, Government of Dominica has made an all-out effort to prevent the appearance and spread of the disease. The Ministry, in collaboration with other non-health sectors, has formulated a National Zika Plan which will provide guidance on the actions to be taken. Thus far the Ministry has implemented a series of preventive measures including; Source reduction through a National Clean-up Program, Public education and awareness campaign through radio & TV programs, Zika hotline amongst others…

In response to this new situation, the Ministry of Health and Environment has convened a meeting to review and refine management strategies and guidelines which will shape the Ministry’s response and has initiated a rapid and coordinated response to the threat of the disease through planned strategies and programmes. These include:

· Integrated Vector Control Management— Community surveillance, source reduction, chemical management,

· Strengthening of Port Health Programme, Epidemiological Surveillance and Health Care Services

· Public Education/ Awareness

Because the type of mosquito that transmits Zika is the same that transmits dengue fever and Chikungunya, measures used for controlling the spread of Zika are the same as those applied for the control of these other vector-borne diseases. And The best method of protection from this disease still remains avoiding mosquito bites. The public can protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved clothing or long pants, and using insect repellents liberally, and mosquito nets at night.

The Ministry of Health and Environment is also urging the public to inspect their homes and yards weekly, and eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites indoors and outdoors by keeping water drums and barrels tightly covered, and throwing out stagnant water from flower vases, old tyres, and other containers that might act as breeding sites.

We have reviewed our strategy and in the coming days will meet with other stakeholders to inform them of their roles and responsibilities

The Ministry of Health and Environment is therefore urging the public to be vigilant and to continue to take the necessary measure to protect their families and communities.

We will continue to closely follow the course of this disease, now that it has made an appearance here…and we are committed to continue doing everything possible to curb the threat of this new dreaded illness.

I thank you.