JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Testing of Influenza A (H1N1) has been ongoing at the facility. A total of 46 cases of the virus have been detected in Jamaica to date.
  • The UWI virology laboratory is the only one that offers viral culture and houses the National Influenza Centre (NIC) for the island.
  • The lab was upgraded through resources from the National Health Fund (NHF).

Jamaica no longer has to send samples overseas to test for suspected cases of the Zika Virus (ZikV).

This, as the National Virology Reference Laboratory, housed at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), is now fully equipped to test for viral infections.

This follows upgrading work undertaken at a cost of $10 million. The improvements have also provided increased capacity for the testing of dengue and chikungunya.

Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, who toured the facilities today (March 11), said the improvement work undertaken, has significantly reduced turnaround time for test results of suspected viral infections.

“With these new facilities here, the turnaround time could be anywhere from a few days to a week depending on what you are testing for,” he said.

He noted that previously, samples had to be sent overseas, particularly to Trinidad with the waiting time being anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

“At which point, it would have been very difficult to treat cases, so it would definitely create higher risk for those who were infected or felt they were infected,” he pointed out.

Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton (right), listens as Medical Chief of Staff, University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), Dr. Carl Bruce (second right), explains some of the functions of the National Virology Reference Laboratory. The Minister was on a tour of the facility today (March 11), which is housed at the UHWI. Also pictured (seated) is Senior Medical Technologist, Angela Miller.

Testing of  Influenza A (H1N1) has been ongoing at the facility. A total of 46 cases of the virus have been detected in Jamaica to date.

Minister Tufton noted that with some improvement in human capacity and additional machinery, the turnaround for tests can be even further reduced. “That is something that I intend to look at with the technocrats at the Ministry for the next flu season,” he said.

 

The UWI virology laboratory is the only one that offers viral culture and houses the National Influenza Centre (NIC) for the island.

It is a full service laboratory that performs a range of diagnostic services for the detection and monitoring of a wide variety of viral infections.

These include respiratory infections such as influenza, rubella, and measles; central nervous system infections such as poliovirus and herpes simplex; sexually transmitted infections; and gastrointestinal infections.

The lab was upgraded through resources from the National Health Fund (NHF) with support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund.

It is now equipped with a state-of-the-art Real-time Thermal Cycler that has the capacity to test 96 samples and controls within two hours. This machine is also capable of testing multiple pathogens in one sample.