#Providenciales, July 31, 2018 – Turks and Caicos – Dengue, chikungunya and zika are all vector borne diseases primarily spread by the bite of an infected aedes aegypti mosquito. The symptoms of the three diseases vary slightly but can all include fever, headache, muscle pain, joint paint and rash. Persons experiencing these symptoms, which typically last several days to a week, are urged to consult a physician.
Over the last few years all three vector borne diseases have emerged in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). In response to these vector borne diseases, the Ministry has implemented a number of measures including increased public education, enhanced vector control measures and surveillance which have been successful in reducing the disease burden. The good news emanating from these strategies is that the last case of chikungunya was confirmed on October 28th 2014 and the last case of zika on January 3rd 2017 in the TCI. Thus, the TCI has not seen a positive case of chikungunya in nearly 4 years and has not seen a positive case of zika in about 18 months. Even dengue, which is more common in the TCI, has been on the decline in recent months.
One particular concern when it comes to zika is its ability to also spread during sexual intercourse and from mother to fetus during pregnancy. Scientists suspect that zika transmission during pregnancy can increase the risk of fetal brain defects such as microcephaly. In the TCI, there has been one case of zika in a pregnant woman in 2016. The mother delivered without complications and both mother and infant are doing well.
Despite this positive news, the Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Sports and Human Services (MHASHS) would like to take this opportunity to remind the general public not to be complacent. With the summer months, come conditions where mosquitoes thrive, grow and reproduce. Visitors and residents alike are reminded to take the following preventative measures:
- Keep your environment clean and free from standing water where mosquitos breed: including tires, bottles, cans, gutters, tree stumps, pets’ bowls, flower pots, etc.
- Avoid being bitten by wearing loose long sleeved shirts and long pants
- Apply insect repellent to exposed skin
- Use mosquito nets when sleeping
- Use safe household insecticides indoor
- Have intact window and door screens in dwellings
- Use condoms to prevent the spread of zika during sex
- Mosquito control exercises such as fogging, larvaciding and treatment of active swamps.
- Premises inspections to find sources of mosquito breeding and target for removal/remediation. Notices are issued to those who fail to comply.
- Removal of derelict vehicles and old appliances, which can serve as breeding sites.
- Clean-up campaigns to mobilize communities to take the lead in keeping their environments clean and free from breeding sites.
- Public awareness campaigns to educate residents on what they can do to prevent vector borne disease.
- A series of vector borne disease workshops to update stakeholders on the latest prevention/ control techniques and to brainstorm methods of enhancing the national strategy.
- Enhanced surveillance to monitor and detect clusters of vector borne disease for the purpose of timely intervention and response.
For further information, kindly contact the Health Promotion and Advocacy Unit on 338 5231 or the Environmental Health Department on 3382143/44.