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Woman, 61, first confirmed Zika case

Thursday, February 18, 2016
An Insect Vector Control Division employee uses a fog machine to spray for mosquitoes at Penal Rock Road, Penal, yesterday. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA

Fears that the rapidly spreading Zika virus would hit the shores of T&T materialised yesterday when Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh announced T&T’s first confirmed case. Careful not to identify the victim or location, Deyalsingh said it was a 61-year-old woman who recently returned from a visit to New Zealand. 

However, he said New Zealand was not a country with confirmed cases of Zika. He said the case was confirmed by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (Carpha) and an investigation would begin to determine how the woman contracted the virus. He said the woman was at her home recovering. He was speaking at the Penal Rock Road Community Centre yesterday where he oversaw a Rapid Response Mosquito Eradication Exercise aimed at targeting the aedes aegypti mosquito which transmits the virus. 

“The way in which she acquired the virus will now be investigated. Her area will be looked at and she will be looked at to make sure she has recovered properly from the virus. 

“She first presented with symptoms on February 10 and the sample sent to Carpha for testing on February 12. It takes a few days to get the results so Trinidad and Tobago has it first official case of Zika,” Deyalsingh said.

With possible deaths and the threat to pregnant women and their babies being born with serious birth defects, Deyalsingh pleaded with citizens not to politicise the issue to cause hysteria. He assured the public that no one would die of the Zika virus, stating that 80 per cent of victims do not show any symptoms.

“This is a non-political issue. I am appealing to all and sundry not to turn this into a political issue by making statements which are only geared to create chaos, confusion and panic. 

“In this room, if you have 100 people and lets assume all of us has Zika, 80 per cent will show no symptoms of Zika.”

With increased eradication exercises being done by the Ministry of Health, it is now collaborating with the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Local Government bodies. He said the focus was source reduction and that would be done by eliminating the aedes aegypti mosquitoes. 

While the Government agencies are doing their part, he said citizens should do theirs by looking out for breeding sites which can be as small as a bottle cap. 

What is Zika

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), which has declared the virus a global threat, people contract Zika by being bitten by an infected aedes aegypti mosquito, the same type of mosquito that spreads dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. The Zika virus occurs in tropical areas with large mosquito populations and is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Southern Asia and the Western Pacific.

Symptoms of Zika usually appear a few days after infection and include slight fever and rash. Conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain and fatigue can also occur. The symptoms usually finish in two to seven days. WHO said health authorities were currently investigating a potential link between the Zika virus in pregnant women and microcephaly in their babies. 

Until more is known, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should take extra care to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Microcephaly is a rare condition where a baby has an abnormally small head. This is due to abnormal brain development of the baby in the womb or during infancy.

Babies and children with microcephaly often have challenges with their brain development as they grow older.