CARPHA Executive Director, Dr. Joy St. John. File photo courtesy CARICOM.
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad--The Caribbean Public Health Agency CARPHA is reminding the public that arboviral diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika are still circulating in the Caribbean region. In light of this, CARPHA emphasises the importance of prevention and control measures to reduce the transmission of these viruses.
Executive Director, Dr. Joy St. John gave the assurance that CARPHA remains committed to strengthening public health systems for early detection and response to the emergence, re-emergence and spread of arboviral infections. She said, “The CARPHA Medical Microbiology Laboratory (CMML) has the capacity and remains ready to test and provide diagnostic confirmation of suspected cases in the Region.” However, she stated, “Member States must maintain a strategic approach to surveillance and sample collection and submission to increase our chances of early identification of infections.” At the same time, Dr. St. John is also encouraging persons to eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites in and around their homes.
Given the increase in regional and international travel to the Caribbean and the presence of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are endemic to this Region and transmit dengue, chikungunya and Zika, CARPHA is urging its Member States to strengthen routine surveillance for undifferentiated fever in their communities.
CARPHA said it is also critical for Ministries of Health to continue public education campaigns to remind people of the importance of keeping their surroundings free of mosquito breeding sites and avoiding mosquito bites. This involves keeping water drums and barrels tightly covered, and throwing out stagnant water from flower vases, old tyres and other containers.
Dengue, chikungunya and Zika are associated with moderate to severe health consequences, with young children and/or older age groups at higher risk. Symptoms of Zika include rash, fever, muscle and joint pain and conjunctivitis. Zika has been confirmed as a cause of congenital abnormalities in neonates of women infected with Zika virus during pregnancy and is also a trigger of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Symptoms of dengue include rash, fever, muscle and joint pain and nausea, while chikungunya may cause similar symptoms with muscle and joint pain persisting for an extended period.