Barbados is among eight countries on an updated travel alert issued by the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) today, advising pregnant women and women planning to get pregnant to postpone trips because of the Zika virus.
Last Friday, Minister of Health John Boyce announced three confirmed cases of the virus here.
Three Caribbean countries – Guadeloupe, St Martin and Guyana – are on the list, which also includes Bolivia, Ecuador, Samoa and Cape Verde.
The CDC said the alert followed reports in Brazil of microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with the Zika virus while pregnant.
It urged pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant to talk to their doctors about the risk of infection before travelling
and to strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.
The news came as the Ministry of Health issued a public statement urging pregnant women and women of childbearing years to take the virus seriously.
It warned that while cases of microcephaly have occurred in Barbados, “microcephaly is an uncommon condition which can be caused by genetic or environmental factors” related to toxicity, radiation or infection.
The Ministry further urged pregnant women and women of childbearing age to avoid exposure to mosquito bites by wearing clothing with long sleeves and long pants, especially in the morning and late afternoon; using mosquito repellants with DEET applied according to manufacturers’ instructions; and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net.
Zika is transmitted by the Aedes Aegyti mosquito, the same insect which spreads dengue fever and chikungunya.
Symptoms include fever, conjunctivitis, temporary arthritis, mainly in the small joints of the hands and feet, a rash that often starts on the face and spread throughout the body.
It usually lasts between two to seven days.
Boyce called on citizens to take action to prevent mosquito breeding around their homes and businesses.
He also disclosed that the Environmental Health Department would step up mosquito surveillance prevention and control activities such as house-to-house inspections, surveillance at ports of entry and fogging in high-risk areas.
Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age. (SD)