JIS News

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  • The Ministry of Health is increasing the capacity of the virology lab at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) to facilitate Zika virus (ZIKV) testing.
  • He added that the Ministry is in discussion with PAHO on the possibility of widely introducing the ELISA test, as the cost to test 40,000 pregnant women at the current price of US$20 per test would be US$800,000.
  • Among these were 231 pregnant women, all of whom have been tested. Seven were confirmed ZIKV positive and have been informed.

The Ministry of Health is increasing the capacity of the virology lab at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) to facilitate Zika virus (ZIKV) testing.

Portfolio Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, said an additional PCR Machine dedicated to ZIKV testing has been ordered for the lab.

“Additional staff has been deployed and others are being recruited to assist at the UHWI Virology Lab. Discussions of a shift system for increased ZIKV testing are ongoing,” Dr. Tufton said.

In a Statement to the House of Representatives on July 19, the Minister also announced that working with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the Ministry has trained staff and established the capacity to do ELISA testing.

“This will allow us to tell whether pregnant women ever had the Zika versus or whether they are having Zika. This will eliminate the three- to five-day window allowing us more flexibility to diagnose Zika infection,” Dr. Tufton said.

He added that the Ministry is in discussion with PAHO on the possibility of widely introducing the ELISA test, as the cost to test 40,000 pregnant women at the current price of US$20 per test would be US$800,000.

Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of the ZIKV are fever, rash, joint pain and red eye.

The unborn child is at high risk of developing microcephaly once the pregnant woman has been infected with the ZIKV.

Microcephaly is an abnormal smallness of the head, which is associated with incomplete brain development.

At present there are 44 laboratory-confirmed cases of ZIKV.  Up to July 18, the Ministry of Health received reports of 3,746 notifications for the virus. Of this amount, 2,524 or 67 per cent of these fit the case definition and were classified as “suspected Zika fever”.

Among these were 231 pregnant women, all of whom have been tested. Seven were confirmed ZIKV positive and have been informed.