Remarks by the Minister of Health Hon. Horace Dalley, Zika Virus Press Briefing February 1, 2016 at 11a.m. Office of the Prime Minister

Introduction

As you know through our announcement last Saturday morning, Jamaica has confirmed its first case of zika virus infection. The Ministry of Health had heightened its surveillance for the past several months as we observed the virus inching closer to us.

 

As we in the Ministry have been saying since November last year, it was a matter of time before the zika virus would have been introduced into Jamaica. Now twenty-five countries in the Latin American and Caribbean Region have confirmed zika cases.

Yesterday the World Health Organization at an emergency meeting declared zika virus infection a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. In the words of the WHO international aid and research must be fast tracked and the priority will be on pregnant women given the link to microcephaly.

 

The Government is taking a coordinated approach in managing this public health emergency. As you can see some of my fellow Ministers and Parish Council members are here today to give their support to the Government’s efforts. We have to view this as a concern for every single citizen and do our part to reduce the spread of this disease.

 

What we know about this one case to date is as follows:

  • The patient, who has now recovered, is a four-year-old child from Portmore, St. Catherine.
  • The child began showing symptoms on January 17, 2016.
  • The child was taken to the Bustamante Hospital for Children on January 21, 2016 by her parents.
  • Samples were sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for testing on January 26, 2016. The Ministry received the positive zika virus test result from CARPHA late Friday afternoon (January, 29, 2016).
  • Let me repeat for emphasis the child has now recovered and at this point, no other family member is displaying symptoms. The Ministry of Health continues to actively investigate to detect any other cases that might be present in the area or in the country.

Actions taken

  • We have heightened our fever and rash surveillance in the area and the entire country.
  • Let me remind private practitioners and laboratories that under the Public Health Act zika is a class one notifiable disease which means it must be reported within 24 hours on suspicion.
  • Within Portmore we have deployed additional resources, including vector control workers, equipment and supplies as well as other resources to enhance surveillance and public awareness.
  • Since Saturday one thousand eight hundred and ninety-four (1,894) households in and around the vicinity of this index case were visited for fever surveillance and interviews were conducted in one thousand three hundred and fifty- five (1,355).
  • Blood samples were collected from fifteen (15) persons and were sent to CARPHA today.
  • A fogging blitz began in the community on the same night that the results were received. This means fogging for three consecutive nights and repeating this weekly for the next three weeks.
  • The Ministry has activated its National Emergency Operations Centre which is coordinating the response.  The island-wide enhanced surveillance system is in place to monitor all fever and rash cases, neurological syndromes and congenital malformations and any other presentations consistent with Zika.
  • We have notified the WHO/PAHO as part of our obligations under the International Health Regulations.
  • We have made contact with the senior team from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), PAHO Jamaica and Washington and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the matter and they will continue to assist with the investigations.

 

Ongoing Activities

The Ministry of Health and the Regional Health Authorities through collaboration with other Ministries, Departments and Agencies have further ramped up its vector control activities especially in communities with high levels of mosquito breeding.

 

We have ramped up our public education and are partnering with the media to spread our messages. We are also engaging several persons to become “health ambassadors” and spread prevention messages with special emphasis on the zika virus.

 

Our teams will continue the work in the field around communities to guide householders in terms of identifying and destroying mosquito breeding sites and keeping their surroundings clean.

 

Prevention of transmission

All of us are at risk and must take responsibility for protecting ourselves. From all indications pregnant women are at a higher risk as the unborn child may be affected. I am joining the world community including the WHO and CDC to call on this group to be extra vigilant and protect yourself.

 

I would like to thank the Mayor Leon Thomas, Mayor Scott, other Mayors across the island and most importantly the citizens of the area for their cooperation. I also thank the Media – you have been very supportive in getting the message out, also Dr. Michael Abrahams, Food for the Poor, the NAJ, JMDA, MAJ, JAPHI, the Umbrella Group of Churches, JDF, PAHO, CDC, TEF, CHASE and NHF.

 

I commend the private sector for answering the call to assists us and would like to make special mention of Caribbean Cement, NHT, Bank of Nova Scotia Foundation, Red Stripe, NYS, Fontana Pharmacy and JGRA for their support.

 

The Ministry of Health will continue to update the nation on this matter. Thank you.