By Caribbean News Contributor
ST GEORGE’S, Grenada -- Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell called on the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique to be prepared for the transmission of the zika virus that has already spread to Caribbean countries including Barbados, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St Martin and the US Virgin Islands.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell
The zika virus is transmitted by the daytime active Aedes mosquito and the common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis (red eye). Other common symptoms include pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for the zika virus disease is not known, but likely to be a few days to a week. The illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days but it can be found longer in some people. Fatalities are rare.
The symptoms of zika are similar to those of dengue and chikungunya diseases, which are also spread through the same mosquitoes that transmit zika. There is no known vaccine or medication available to prevent or treat zika infections.
To treat the symptoms, here is what is recommended:
Plenty of rest, drink fluids to prevent dehydration, take medicine such as acetaminophen to help relieve fever and pain. DO NOT take Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like Ibuprofen and naproxen.
During the first week of infection, the zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the zika virus is likely to spread across almost all of the Americas. The infection has already spread to 21 countries.
Australia has warned pregnant women not to travel to affected areas, as they could give birth to babies with defects that impact brain development.
Researchers first identified the zika virus in 1947 after a fever developed in a Rhesus monkey in Uganda and it was first reported in humans in the 1950s. Now the World Health Organization has warned that the zika virus is “spreading explosively” in the Americas and that as many as four million people could be infected by the end of 2016.
Since there is no specific treatment or vaccine to prevent the zika virus, prevention is key. The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to avoid being bitten in the first place.
Mitchell and the Grenada ministry of health believe these tips are very important for the population to follow in preventing zika:
1. Remove sources of standing water, which can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes;
2. Apply insect repellents and reapply as directed;
3. Check with the government health officials about what kinds of repellent are safe to use in pregnancy;
4. Wear light-colored clothing since mosquitoes are thought to be more attracted to darker colours;
5. Avoid the use of scented skin care products;
6. Sleep under a mosquito net.
The explosive spread of the zika virus has caught the world by surprise but its namesake, the Zika forest preserve after which the virus is named, near the edge of Lake Victoria in Uganda, is where researchers go to study viruses and the mosquitoes that carry them.