Mosquito-borne diseases like Dengue, Chikungunya and the recent emergence of Zika virus has been of serious concern in the Caribbean region including the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Turks and Caicos Government in partnership with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO), the Airport Authority, Tourist Board, Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association, TCI Hospital and other local and regional stakeholders has taken extensive measures to protect our residents and visitors from the threat of diseases.
The Ministry of Health, Agriculture and Human Services has held several joint high level meetings with our regional and local partners to ensure that all available resources are accumulated and every measure possible is taken to ensure that our country implements the strongest possible Zika virus preparedness and response plan to address this issue. Thus far, the following steps have been taken:
- Increased countrywide clean up campaigns, fogging exercises and premises inspections;
- Expanded surveillance efforts;
- Provided regular training sessions and situational updates to health professionals; and
- Stepped up public awareness campaigns.
Since 2007, 65 countries have reported cases of Zika. Of the 65 countries, approximately 22 countries are located in the Caribbean region. As of Friday, July 22, 2016, the Turks and Caicos Islands has recorded 5 cases of Zika Virus. Three (3) of these cases are associated with a recent history of travel to areas where cases of Zika has been reported. The other 2 are being investigated. To date, there is no epidemiological evidence of in country transmission associated with the two non-travel related cases. Measures have been taken to ensure that these cases are managed and contained, and all affected persons are recovering.
Zika is a viral illness, which is spread by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. This mosquito is found throughout the Americas, including the TCI. Most persons who contract Zika are often not aware that they have the illness as they may not have any symptoms. Symptoms of Zika are similar to Dengue and Chikungunya and appear between four to seven days after someone has been bitten by an infected mosquito. These symptoms include mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye), muscle or joint pain, and general malaise.
There is no specific medication to treat Zika and there are currently no vaccines to prevent the illness. However, symptoms of Zika can be managed by:
- Getting plenty of rest
- Drinking fluids to prevent dehydration
- Taking medicines, such as acetaminophen, or paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain.
- Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aleve or Ibuprofen unless advised by a doctor.
The concern with Zika is a growing body of evidence regarding the connection between infection with Zika during pregnancy and possible abnormalities in the newborn. In addition, there has been an association with Zika and other neurological complications such as Guillain-Barre syndrome.
To protect yourself and your family, the Ministry advises persons in the TCI to take the following precautions:
- Prevent mosquito breeding in and around your home by keeping your environment clean (check your gutters and remove standing water from old flower vases, tires and other containers that might act as breeding sites such as water drums and barrels).
- Avoid being bitten by wearing loose long-sleeved shirts and long pants, applying insect repellents and using mosquito nets.
- Zika has been proven to be sexually transmitted therefore we recommend condom use.
- Pregnant women are advised to seek more information from their health provider at their next scheduled visit and not to travel to areas with Zika virus during pregnancy. If pregnant and you suspect that you have Zika, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
- Women and men who have been diagnosed with the Zika virus are advised to seek guidance from their health provider prior to planning a future pregnancy.
For more information, contact the Ministry of Health, Agriculture and Human Services on 338-3061 or 338-3058. The Ministry will keep the public informed with any new developments.