JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The recent upgrade of the National Virology Reference Laboratory at the University of the West Indies to facilitate testing for the Zika virus is yielding results, with the confirmation of two new cases of the virus from samples tested.
  • Upgrading work undertaken on the Virology Lab included the acquisition of state- of-the-art real time thermal equipment with the capacity to test 96 samples within two hours. The machine is also capable of testing multiple pathogens in one sample.
  • The virology lab, which also houses the National Influenza Centre, is a full service lab that performs a range of diagnostic services for the detection and monitoring of a wide variety of viral infections.

The recent upgrade of the National Virology Reference Laboratory at the University of the West Indies to facilitate testing for the Zika virus is yielding results, with the confirmation of two new cases of the virus from samples tested.

            Speaking at a press briefing at the Ministry of Health on March 18, Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, explained that the upgrade is good for Jamaica, because it means a shorter turnaround time, which facilitates earlier diagnosis and treatment.

“Initially, when we started to confront this virus, we did not have the capacity because of equipment deficits to do our own testing here, so all the samples were sent to Trinidad to the regional testing lab. Since that time we have invested $10 million to put in the capacity and since last week, we have been doing our own testing,” he explained.

Acting Chief Medical Officer,  Dr. Winston De la Haye,  said that since the beginning of testing at the  lab on March 7, a total of 70 samples had been received and that the two positive samples were detected from among them.

 He noted that before, the samples had to be sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad for testing, and that the Ministry is still awaiting the results  for some of the 321 samples sent.

Upgrading work undertaken on the Virology Lab included the acquisition of state- of-the-art real time thermal equipment with the capacity to test 96 samples within two hours. The machine is also capable of testing multiple pathogens in one sample.

For her part, WHO/PAHO representative to Jamaica, Dr. Noreen Jack, explained that country testing is being supported around the Caribbean by the Pan American Health Organization with capacity building training, with the deployment of a consultant virologist to support the effort.

The virology lab, which also houses the National Influenza Centre, is a full service lab that performs a range of diagnostic services for the detection and monitoring of a wide variety of viral infections.