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Zika alert: Dr Tim tells pregnant women with flu-like symptoms, Get tested now

Published: 
Monday, February 8, 2016

Pregnant women in T&T who are experiencing flu-like symptoms and numbness in the legs are being advised to consult their respective gynaecologists urgently to have Zika and Guillain-Barrê syndrome testing done immediately. Guillain-Barrê syndrome causes paralysis and can be fatal. This syndrome is said to be currently a growing health concern amidst Zika. 

The warning yesterday came from gynaecologist Dr Tim Gopeesingh, who officially returned to his practice last month. Gopeesingh throughout the years have been heavily involved in politics and at one time held the post of Minister of Education in T&T under the People’s Partnership government.

In an interview  yesterday, Gopeesingh said he has been bombarded with calls from women, who are pregnant, expressing their concerns over Zika. 

“No pregnant woman wants to be the first Zika case so that is why I suggest that anyone experiencing mild symptoms, maybe just a slight fever or any flu-like symptoms please go to your doctors and have a laboratory testing done,” Gopeesingh said.

“First and second trimester are very critical, especially the second, seek to have ultra-sounds done so that the foetal head size can be measured and monitored,” he added.

Zika Virus is a mosquito-borne infection spread by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. It is of the belief that pregnant women who contract the virus during pregnancy, at any trimester, may have an increased risk of giving birth to a baby with microcephaly, which is a birth defect, where the head is abnormally small and the brain can be under-developed. 

T&T Guardian was told that over the past few weeks, although there are no reported cases of the Zika virus in T&T, several pregnant women throughout the country are raising concerns and are putting forward questions to their respective nurses and doctors as to what they can do.

On the Guillain-Barrê syndrome, Gopeesingh said that the muscular disease correlates to Zika, “So, pregnant women need to look out for any unusual symptoms and go get them-
selves checked.”

A medical doctor, who wished not to be identified, from the North West Regional Health Authority said that he has also been approached by women in the Antenatal Clinic. “From what I gather these women are worried and are concerned but what must be on top of our minds is that T&T have no Zika,” the doctor said.

Neonatologist Dr Petronella Manning-Alleyne yesterday gave the assurance to pregnant women and women, who think they might be pregnant to not worry and to just “keep the faith.”

“We have no identified case of the Zika virus here and I don’t know why the widespread discontent. Watch, wait and do not be worried,” Manning-Alleyne said.

She, however, believes that the panic and growing concerns may be as a result of the announcement made by the Health Minister, Terrence Deyalsingh on February 5 that there is now a national public health emergency. Following Deyalsingh’s declaration, on February 8, the World Health Organization declared a global public health emergency.

“All we have to do is clear all breeding sites, keep our surroundings clean and ensure that we all follow the health advisories and keep the faith,” Manning-Alleyne said.

According to an issued statement by the T&T IVF Fertility Centre last week, being pregnant does not make the Zika infection worse or more risky. 

With respect to treatment, the statement read: “there is no specific treatment for the symptoms of the Zika virus. Drinking plenty of water and taking paracetamol may help relieve symptoms. The use of aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen is not recommended, as there is a potential risk they could trigger excessive bleeding.”

The organisation added that although it is unrelated to Zika, the H1N1 flu virus is of concern for pregnant women.  

“If you have not yet had the H1N1 flu vaccine then you should talk to your doctor or health centre about this vaccine. H1N1 flu virus is present in Trinidad and Tobago and all pregnant women or women thinking of getting pregnant are advised to have the vaccine. All pregnant women are also advised to take folic acid supplements during pregnancy,” the statement said.

Reducing risk of infection with Zika
- Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. The most effective bite prevention methods, which should be used both day and night are; using insect repellent that contains DEET on exposed skin—the repellent is safe to use during pregnancy and should be applied to skin after sunscreen is applied.  
Check the instructions to see how often to reapply. Most insect repellents will last for 2-4 hours.

- Wearing loose, dark clothing that covers your arms and legs and socks to cover your ankles. You can also wear clothing with mosquito repellent (Permethrin) impregnated into the material.
- Staying indoors and using screens over doors and windows to prevent mosquitos entering property
- Sleeping or resting under a mosquito net
- Consider postponing travel to any region where a known outbreak of the Zika virus is occurring
- Ensure that your home and work environments have no possible breeding sites for mosquitos and encourage everyone you know to do the same

Symptoms include
- a mild fever (38.5 degrees C)
- conjunctivitis (red, sore eyes)—not sticky or purulent
- headache, muscle pain, weakness and tiredness
- mild arthritis or joint pain with possible swelling in the small joints of the hands and feet
- an itchy rash which is made up of red patches with small raised bumps (maculo-papular) usually starting on the face and then spreading to the body
- less frequent are gastrointestinal symptoms, vertigo and retro-orbital pain (pain behind the eyes)

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