GEORGETOWN –– Although no case of Zika virus has been reported in Guyana, Minister of Public Health Dr George Norton has announced that priority care is being given to pregnant mothers across the country.
This is in light of the fact that the virus may lead to babies being born with abnormally small heads.
Health officials in Brazil said that the virus might be responsible for causing underdeveloped brains and small skulls in newborns. This has prompted local health workers to closely monitor pregnant mothers.
“The virus affects the mother who is pregnant and it can be passed down to the baby. We can only treat the mother while she is pregnant, but from the time the baby is born we would start looking for those signs,” Norton explained.
In a report, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said that in some Brazilian states where the virus has been circulating in recent months there had been a marked increase in cases of newborns with microcephaly.
Brazilian health authorities said that the greatest risk of microcephaly and malfunctions is associated with infection during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Health authorities, with support from PAHO and other agencies, are conducting research to clarify the cause, risk factors and consequences of microcephaly. Microcephaly is a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development.
PAHO recommends that countries continue to provide access to prenatal care for pregnant women. The health organization also advised that women of childbearing age take measures to avoid mosquito bites, which in addition to Zika, can also transmit diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.
While there is no vaccine or specific treatment for Zika virus infection, Kaieteur News was told that like chikungunya, the virus could he treated symptomatically, usually with bed rest, fluids, and medication to relieve symptoms of fever and aching. Medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen or paracetamol are often recommended.
According to the health minister, there are health workers at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and the Ogle Airport monitoring incoming passengers. He urged people travelling from Zika virus-affected countries to keep an eye on their health condition.
The virus is spread by the same mosquito which spreads chikungunya and dengue viruses. The species of mosquito
is called Aedes.
The most common symptoms of the virus are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eye). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.
Norton recommends that people should take measures to reduce the breeding of mosquitoes, such as covering all containers of water to prevent mosquitoes from breeding, disposing waste such as bottles, vases, coconut shells, and used tyres and tubes.
Until last year, the Zika virus was mainly confined to Africa and Asia but last year the disease made the leap to the Caribbean, affecting more than a million people in Brazil. It has since spread to Venezuela and Puerto Rico.