The Ministry of Health, via the office of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), has officially announced receipt of confirmation from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) that three (3) serum samples tested on September 11, 2016 have been positive for the ZIKA virus. These positive results are therefore the Federation’s first confirmed cases of ZIKA in the local population.
The Ministry further confirms that these samples were sent to CARPHA at the end of August 2016, but that the Trinidad—based epidemiological agency submitted the results to St. Kitts and Nevis on September 15, 2016 – largely due to the CARICOM laboratory’s inundation with over 1,300 ZIKA test requests within the last three weeks. The Ministry has officially notified all three individuals of their test results.
The Ministry wishes to advise the general public that the announcement of these ZIKA results is not cause for panic. The public is reminded that the ZIKA virus is generally considered to be a mild illness with up to 80% of affected persons not showing any symptoms. Symptoms include fever, rash, and body aches and pains. In rare cases, the virus has been known to cause Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) which affects the body’s peripheral nervous system. ZIKA has also been confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as having causal association with microcephaly in newborns (children born with abnormally small heads) at a very low rate of ≤ 0.3% of cases. ZIKA is also spread by sexual contact. As such, the Ministry encourages persons to prevent the spread of the illness via appropriate and consistent condom use, and abstinence.
As a result of the recent confirmation of ZIKA in our general population, the Environmental Health Department within the Ministry of Health will be sustaining and, in some cases, accelerating its vector control measures such as inspection, enforcement and education; fogging; ova-trapping; and eradication of mosquito breeding sites in an effort to control the spread of the Aedes Egypti mosquito which carries the virus. The public is strongly encouraged to support the work of the Environmental Health Department by ensuring that every effort is made to destroy mosquito breeding sites around their homes, yards and businesses, to use safe insect repellant such as Off® when outdoors, to stay indoors whenever possible, and to wear long-sleeved clothing when outdoors. Care should be taken to drain flower pots, discarded tyres, tin cans and other receptacles with stagnant water in order to discourage the breeding of mosquitoes.
Thursday’s test results from CARPHA also coincided with the first official day on the job for the Federation’s new CMO, Dr Hazel Laws, who assumes duties following the short acting appointment of Dr Cameron Wilkinson. Dr Laws, a citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis, is seconded to the Federation from the University of West Indies (Mona-Jamaica) for a period of two years. She brings to the post extensive experience in the area of Public Health. (Details of Dr Laws’ appointment will be addressed in a subsequent announcement.)
The Ministry of Health notes that St. Kitts and Nevis has now joined 46 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean with confirmed cases of the ZIKA virus.1
These countries include Antigua & Barbuda, Martinique, Barbados, Grenada,
St. Barthelemy, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), Haiti, St. Maarten, Jamaica, the British Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, The Dominican Republic, Belize, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Anguilla and the Bahamas.
Persons interested in obtaining further information on the ZIKA virus, control measures and the work of the Environmental Health Department are asked to contact the Department at 467-1271; the Ministry of Health at 467-1270; the Director of Community-based Health Services at 467-1134; any of the Federation’s 17 health centres or four hospitals.