A testament to just how worried public health officials are in the path of the growing Zika epidemic, today the Health Minister of Jamaica - a country not yet affected by the virus - is urging all women to avoid getting pregnant for the next 6 to 12 months.
The following statement was posted on the MOH website earlier today.
The Ministry of Health is advising women to delay becoming pregnant for the next six to twelve months and those already pregnant to take extra precaution to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes given the possible link between zika virus infection and microcephaly.
Microcephaly is an abnormal growth of the brain and stunting of the growth of the head of the foetus arising from infection in the first months of pregnancy. Babies who develop microcephaly in the womb may not live to full term, may be born prematurely, may be still born or may survive but with life-long disability.
Minister of Health, Hon. Horace Dalley says although there is no absolute proof the evidence from Brazil and the information from the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and other technical partners is strong enough for the Ministry to take this position in seeking to prevent any possible adverse outcome to pregnant women.
“The zika virus is inching closer and closer to Jamaica as several of our Caribbean neighbours have reported cases. Women are therefore being advised to delay pregnancy if possible. Those already pregnant must take action to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes as the unborn baby is at high risk if the mother is infected in the first few months of pregnancy,” Minister Dalley advises.
Minister Dalley is calling on every citizen to play their part in taking the necessary steps to rid their communities of the Aedes aegypti mosquito which transmits the zika virus.
Persons can destroy mosquito breeding sites by looking for anything around the home, school, churches and business places that may collect water and either cover it, keep it dry or dispose of it. Repair leaking pipes and outdoor faucets, cut the grass short and trim shrubbery, clear roof gutters and eaves to prevent water from settling and fill in and drain any low places in the yard such as areas where there are usually puddles when it rains.
Persons can protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellent containing DEET, putting mesh on windows and doors and wearing long sleeved clothing where possible.
The Ministry of Health has heightened its alert and is scaling up its vector control activities.