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The Chief Medical Officer sensitizes the public on the Zika Virus

21st January 2016

With a fairly new Mosquito-borne disease threatening the region, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rhonda Sealey-Thomas is urging residents in Antigua and Barbuda to take the Zika Virus seriously.

Speaking from her Redcliffe Street Office on Wednesday, Sealey-Thomas warned that with the Aedes Aegypti Mosquito now transmitting a third virus, the population needs to start sensitizing themselves and take every precautionary measure to avoid a major catastrophe.

"The Zika Virus is a relatively new disease to the Caribbean region and it is spread by the Aedes Aegypti Mosquito, the same Mosquito that transmits Dengue Fever and Chikungunya, it's new to the region and we have been seeing cases in more and more of the Caribbean over the last few months. So now we have a third disease that is transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti Mosquito and that's why it is so important and I emphasized the importance of vector control and controlling mosquito breeding sites in Antigua and Barbuda because that would help us abate the spread of diseases, not only the Zika Virus but also Dengue and the Chikungunya", Dr. Sealy-Thomas remarked.

The Chief Medical Officer said that some of the symptoms of the Zika Virus are fever, joint and muscle pain, headache, conjunctivitis which is an infection of the eyes, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pains in some cases are also reported.

She also said that in Brazil, where the Zika Virus first surfaced, there has been an association between the disease and congenital malformations, where in newborn babies; the head circumferences are smaller than normal.

She however said that it is only an association and not actual proof that a connection does exist between the two.

When asked if the country's medical fraternity is adequately prepared to handle cases of the Zika Virus, the CMO was confident that Antigua and Barbuda can hold its own.

"The Zika Virus is a viral infection, the treatment is quite non-specific; there is no specific treatment or cure for Zika Virus and the symptoms are usually the fever, the joint pain and conjunctivitis which are usually limited and would last about five to seven days but symptomatic treatment is what's recommended and that would be with pain reducers and things that reduce fever", the CMO stated

On the subject of the 2015 Ebola outbreak in three West African countries and the subsequent ban of travel that was implemented on passengers leaving those countries, Sealy Thomas said that the ban has been lifted by the Antiguan Authorities and people are now permitted to move back and forth between Antigua and Barbuda, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

"The World Health Organization announced that the three countries in West African that were affected, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are now Ebola free and you would recall that sometime last year the Government of Antigua and Barbuda did impose a ban because the World Health Organization at the time declared the Ebola outbreak an event of International concern and as a precautionary measure it was something that the Government did. So when the outbreak and number of cases started to decline last year, the Gaston Browne Administration took the decision to lift the ban so that has been lifted since last year", Sealey-Thomas said.

For Further Information Contact:

Ms. Debbie Francis Communications Officer Ministry of Health & the Environment Redcliffe Street, St. John's, Antigua Tel: 1(268) 721-5904