Barbados has stepped up its border surveillance and monitoring systems as the country records eight suspected cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
However, health officials have assured residents there was no need to be unduly worried because this virus was not a major threat and was not as severe as Dengue or Chikungunya.
Nevertheless, they cautioned that more vulnerable persons such as young children, the elderly and those already suffering from chronic illnesses were at higher risk.
Minister of Health John Boyce told a news briefing this morning at his Culloden Road, St Michael office that samples of the suspected cases have been sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad for confirmation.
“As of January 2, 2016, 14 member-states and territories of the Americas have confirmed local transmission of Zika virus. In Barbados, there are eight suspected cases and these samples will be sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency for confirmatory testing,” Boyce said.
“The Environmental Health Department will continue to conduct mosquito surveillance, prevention and control activities such as house-to-house inspections, surveillance at ports-of-entry and fogging in high-risk areas,” he added.
Boyce disclosed that the ministry would also continue its epidemiological surveillance to collect and analyze data from various sources, including private and public-sector facilities, in order to source information for planning and response.
The most common symptoms of Zika are mild fever and skin rash, usually accompanied by conjunctivitis, muscle or joint pain, and general malaise, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Most people won’t know they have it as PAHO has reported that only one out of four infected people develops symptoms.
The virus, first discovered in Uganda in 1947, is spread by the Aedes mosquito, the same insect that spreads Dengue and Chikungunya.
As a result, Boyce said, health officials and the Barbadian public were familiar with the control and prevention methods necessary to prevent its spread.
He recommended that home and business owners inspect their surroundings at least once a week to locate and remove any breeding places that might be present.
Flanked by Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George and Permanent Secretary Tennyson Springer, the Minister of Health also updated the country on the H1N1 virus, also known as Swine Flu. “During 2015, 66 cases of influenza A H1N1 were confirmed. During the same period, two deaths, associated with this virus were recorded,” he revealed, while giving the assurance that the ministry had systems in place to monitor and detect Swine Flu cases.