KINGSTON –– Jamaica has recorded its first “probable” case of Zika virus-related microcephaly.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Winston De La Haye last night confirmed that the “probable” case involves a baby who was born in December at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston, to a mother who had a rash during her pregnancy.
The CMO told the Jamaica Observer that the Ministry of Health is now awaiting test results to determine the exact cause of the condition in the infant, while ruling out other conditions that could cause microcephaly apart from the Zika virus.
Microcephaly is a birth defect in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), besides Zika, other causes of microcephaly include infections during pregnancy such as: toxoplasmosis (caused by a parasite found in undercooked meat), campylobacter pylori, rubella, herpes, syphilis, cytomegalovirus, HIV; exposure to toxic chemicals: maternal exposure to heavy metals like arsenic and mercury, alcohol, radiation, and smoking; pre- and perinatal injuries to the developing brain (hypoxia-ischemia, trauma); genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome; and severe malnutrition during foetal life.
This probable case of Zika-related microcephaly comes two days after Grenada recorded its first case of microcephaly after the unidentified mother of the baby became infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus during her pregnancy.
Dr De La Haye said, however, while Zika virus is still present, the rate of reporting locally has decreased.
With regard to the country’s preparedness to deal with Zika-related microcephaly cases, Dr De La Haye said psychologists, child psychologists, paediatricians, obstetricians, and other health-care professionals are prepared to provide psychosocial support to parents who are at risk or deliver a child with the condition.
“Many parents are anxious that they are pregnant at a time when they were advised not to be and are concerned about the future of their child if he or she is born with microcephaly. But with certain complications of the condition, the potential outcomes would be to wait until the child starts school, track that child up to their teenage years, monitor them in clinics to see if there is any developmental or neurological complications,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, the CMO said the take-home message from this should be that if you are pregnant, instead of being anxious, seek the assistance of your health care professional and get tested for the Zika virus.
“This way we can have you placed in a high-risk group if you are suspected to be high-risk, and monitor you throughout the pregnancy. What we don’t want is people turning up to hospitals just to deliver and no testing of this sort was done,” he said.