JIS News

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  • The Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA) has heightened preparedness of health facilities in the western end of the island, to deal with the possible introduction of the Zika Virus (ZikV).
  • WRHA Regional Technical Director, Dr. Dianne Campbell-Stennett, said phase one of the action plan has been activated, which entails ramping up public education, training and activating community workers.
  • She said the agency is also monitoring disease trends regionally and internationally.

The Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA) has heightened preparedness of health facilities in the western end of the island, to deal with the possible introduction of the Zika Virus (ZikV).

WRHA Regional Technical Director, Dr. Dianne Campbell-Stennett, said phase one of the action plan has been activated, which entails ramping up public education, training and activating community workers, heightening surveillance systems to facilitate early detection and diagnosis of cases, as well as sensitising clinicians and other healthcare workers.

She said the agency is also monitoring disease trends regionally and internationally.

“We have started to look at strengthening our surveillance activities at ports of entry, and we are speaking of travel advisories….we know where the disease is and so people coming from those countries are given a health alert card (with instructions and contact details for health departments and hospitals) so that if they get ill, they can contact us,” Dr. Campbell-Stennett informed.

She was addressing a health forum on ZikV Preparedness on Monday, December 21, at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay.

Dr. Campbell-Stennett said the WRHA has also taken stock of its laboratory capacity, increased its inventory of treatment medication, and has identified areas to isolate infected patients from the general population.

These areas, she said, will be equipped with mosquito nets, and insect repellent.

Regional Medical Epidemiologist for the WRHA, Dr. Maung Aung, warned that although there is no recorded case of ZikV in Jamaica, persons must remain vigilant and proactive, by cleaning their home and work environments, and removing potential breeding sites for mosquitoes.

He said persons must also protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellent containing DEET, wearing long sleeved clothing, sleeping under mosquito nets, and putting mesh on windows and doors.

Dr. Aung told participants that 10 countries in the Americas are currently experiencing locally transmitted cases of the vector-borne disease for the first time within their borders. They are Brazil, Easter Island in Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and more recently, Panama.

He said that with the disease already present in the region, its spread to Jamaica is inevitable, particularly with the anticipated increase in travel during the Christmas season.

The forum saw participation from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), Jamaica Constabulary Force, Social Development Commission (SDC), Jamaica Fire Brigade, Jamaica Library Service, HEART Trust/ NTA, National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), and the Jamaica Information Service (JIS).