Over 100 senior staff members of the ministry, yesterday attended the National Workshop on Preparedness and Response to Zika Virus Infection, at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
The Zika virus, which has caused a recent health scare in the South American country of Brazil, is spread by the bite of an infected Aedes Aegypti mosquito. Its symptoms include severe fever, joint and muscle pains, headaches, rashes and conjunctivitis. These symptoms usually appear three to 12 days following a bite.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, said that the region should prepare for the introduction of a new disease and/or a disease outbreak every two years. This, he said, is coming out of discussions at the recent World Health Assembly. “This year we face the threat of the Zika Virus. We do not yet know what the next two years will bring, but we have to prepare nonetheless. We cannot let our guard down,” he said. The Minister pointed out that if the Zika Virus gets here, it will be a new disease for Jamaica.
“A combination of factors, including urbanization, population growth, an increase in global travel and trade and climate change has led to an increase in susceptibility of countries in the Caribbean, including Jamaica, for disease outbreaks, among them some never before experienced in this region,” he said.
He added that the prevalence of vector borne diseases has been on the rise with estimates indicating that the number of cases of dengue has increased 30 fold over the last 50 years. “This is worrying, because some of the diseases that now threaten the health of the region, including Jamaica, are those which are transmitted in the same way as dengue. We must bear in mind that we are susceptible to diseases, such as Chikungunya and the Zika virus, because we have never been exposed…so if or when introduced, a fairly large amount of the population may be impacted,” the Minister said. Friday’s workshop sought to update the senior health team islandwide on the current situation with the Zika Virus infection globally and regionally; to provide guidance on the management of the Zika Virus infection; and to review the Ministry’s outbreak preparedness and response strategies.
At the workshop were senior medical officers, Chief Executive Officers of hospitals, public health inspectors and health educators.
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