Trinidad and Tobago has confirmed its first case of Zika, the mosquito-borne disease linked to birth defects in babies, which is causing global alarm.
The sobering announcement was made this afternoon by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh.
Speaking at a Rapid Response mosquito eradication exercise in the community of Penal Rock Road, Deyalsingh said : “At 2.30p.m. today the first case of the Zika virus was confirmed. Laboratory (tests) confirmed the case (through) CARPHA (The Caribbean Public Health Agency). A 61-year-old female who recently travelled to New Zealand”.
He said new Zealand is not known to have Zika cases, and how the woman contracted the virus was unknown. Deyalsingh said this was being investigated, and the area in which the woman lives would be: “looked at. She would be looked at to make sure she recovers proberly from the virus”.
Deyalsingh said the woman first exhibited symptoms on February 10, and on February 12, a sample was taken and sent for testing by CARPHA.
Regarding concerns that the Zika could be a life threatening public health issue, he said “what you do not want from Zika is panic. Please keep it in perspective. The comment ‘if Zika reach the area, we will die’ please! This is a non-political issue! I plead not to make it a political statement geared to create fear and panic. Please let us keep our heads on to eliminate this”.
He said that the virus needs to be attacked on the ground level, with a public education and clean up campaign.
He said “if you have 100 people in a room, eighty per cent will not show symptoms”.
Deyalsingh said: “I am appeal to everyone. Do not create unnecessary panic. The comment of Zika take you, you going to die, is absolutely not true”.
The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile virus. It can be transmitted by the bite of the aedes egypti mosquito which is prevalent in Trinidad and Tobago. Some people who contract the virus will exhibit flu-like symptoms and recover quickly.
The World Health Organisation has declared the Zika virus an international public health emergency, and there is growing concern about the birth defects in may be causing in babies. As many as four million people could be infected by the end of 2016.
On January 29, the country declared a national health emergency over the mosquito-borne Zika virus, with Deyalsingh saying that the virus posed a clear threat to Trinidad and Tobago. He warned pregnant women to protect themselves from the Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes.
Deyalsingh said the Rapid Response Unit was being set up to aggressively tackle the Zika virus and the Ministries of Local Government and National Security and other State agencies were involved in the programme.
Deyalsingh said fogging and spraying would continue throughout the country, as well as programmes to educate citizens on the virus.
Deyalsingh said all Members of Parliament are involved in the programme and called on all citizens to do their part.
Meanwhile, several local gynaecologists have advised women to postpone getting pregnant and also take precautions to avoid unexpected pregnancies.