Region potential risk for Zika

The Health Ministry’s Collective Prevention Services (CPS) Sint Maarten is calling on the population to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds as the region is now a potential risk for the Zika virus, writes The Daily Herald.

Eliminating mosquito breeding grounds can stem the spread of mosquitoborne diseases.

The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) says the recent outbreak of Zika fever in different regions of the world demonstrate potential spread of this virus across territories where the vectors (Aedes mosquito) are present.

PAHO added that the broad distribution of the mosquito vector Aedes in the Americas combined with the high mobility of persons in- and outside of the region and worldwide, represents a risk for the spread of the Zika virus in the Americas.

Zika virus is a member of the Flaviviridae family and is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. It is related to other pathogenic vector borne flaviviruses including dengue, West-Nile and Japanese encephalitis viruses, but produces a comparatively mild disease in humans.

Countries endemic with dengue and chikungunya through the Aedes Agypti mosquitoes, are at risk for Zika virus. Based on the fact that if an infected Zika case enters St. Maarten and with the presence of the Aedes Agypti mosquito, this virus can be transmitted from person to person similar to the transmission mode as dengue and chikungunya, CPS said in a press release on Friday.

CPS advises travellers to take the necessary preventive measures when abroad and to report to their family physician upon their return if they experience symptoms.

The main clinical symptoms in patients are fever, conjunctivitis, transient arthritis/arthralgia (mainly in the smaller joints of the hands and feet) and maculo- papular rash (that often starts on the face and then spreads throughout the body).

In general the disease symptoms are mild and short-lasting between two to seven days. There is no vaccine or preventive drug available.

To reduce the risk of contracting Zika virus infection – as for the other mosquito- borne infections – travellers should minimise the exposure to mosquito bites by taking preventive measures such as using anti-mosquito devices (insecticide- treated bed nets, coils, smudge pots, spray, repellents) and wearing long sleeves and clothes with long legs, especially during the hours of highest mosquito activity (morning and late afternoon). Mosquito repellent based on a 30 per cent DEET (diethyltoluamide) concentration is recommended. Before using repellents, pregnant women and children under the age of 12 years should consult a physician or pharmacist. For newborn children under three months, repellents are not recommended; instead, insecticide-treated bed nets should be used, CPS said.

CPS urges the community to be on alert for the Zika symptoms and to be on high alert.

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