STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HONOURABLE RONNIE W. SKELTON
TUESDAY, 30 AUGUST, 2016
THE ZIKA VIRUS
My fellow residents of and visitors to the Virgin Islands, the recent announcement of five laboratory confirmed cases of the Zika Virus has understandably given rise to some concerns, but there is no cause for undue alarm. We have been monitoring the spread of this mosquito-borne virus across the Americas and the Caribbean region since local transmission was first reported in Brazil in May 2015. When local transmission was later detected in St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, and the neighbouring US Virgin Islands, we anticipated that it would not be long before the virus reached the shores of the BVI.
The Ministry of Health, working with other partners, continues to make every effort to prevent and minimize the impact of Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses such as Dengue and Chikungunya. We do this by promoting the most effective means of prevention: elimination of mosquito breeding sites, and personal protection.
For most persons the symptoms of Zika will be a mild fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain and headache, and they will not be sick enough to be hospitalized. In fact only one in five persons infected will actually have any symptoms at all.
Unlike Chikungunya and Dengue, Zika can be transmitted through sexual contact, and from a pregnant woman to her unborn child. Infection during pregnancy has been linked to a specific birth defect known as microcephaly in a very small number of cases. There is presently no intervention to counter the passage of the virus from an infected mother to unborn child in those infrequent cases. However, doctors in the BVI have received clinical guidance to monitor all pregnant women, and to provide supportive care throughout the pregnancy in order to ensure the best possible outcome.
Zika has also been linked to a rare self-limiting condition known as Guillian Barre Syndrome. Additional stocks of the drug required to treat this serious condition are being stocked at Peebles Hospital in the unlikely event that it becomes necessary. With PAHO’s assistance, a Doctor of Internal Medicine is also receiving special training in the management of neurological complications related with Zika virus infection.
Fellow residents and visitors, if you experience any of the symptoms of Zika you are encouraged to see a doctor. It is especially important to let your doctor know if you are pregnant, and to follow your doctor’s advice.
To prevent Zika infection, protect yourself from mosquito bites, and if you are already infected please avoid being bitten and protect your sexual partner by using condoms or other barriers.
I also encourage everyone to take responsibility for reducing the mosquito population by eliminating mosquito breeding sites. Every one of us can do our part to keep our immediate surroundings clean and free from containers and other waste items that can collect water. This includes properly disposing of derelict vehicles and covering exposed water catchments, such as cistern overflow pipes and storage tanks, with wire mesh. If you need assistance, please contact the Environmental Health Division at 468-5110.
As a result of ongoing efforts, the mosquito population in the Territory has remained at a very low index in recent months. The Ministry of Health through its Waste Management Department and Environmental Health Division will continue its clean-up efforts, fogging programme, chemical treatment of larger water catchments, inspection of premises, and assistance to households. I commend the many volunteers who have come forward and are helping to mobilise their communities. If we all do our part, we can successfully reduce the impact of Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses on the population.
As Minister for Health and Social Development I implore every resident of and visitors to these beautiful Virgin Islands to join together in this important mission.
Thank you for your support, and may Jehovah continue to bless, guide and protect us.