The Zika virus situation is being closely followed by Jamaica Missions USA for the safety of women of child bearing age from both the “team” and Jamaica. It is important to remember that there have been no proven cases of the virus in Jamaica according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia) and the Jamaican MOH (Ministry of Health, Kingston, Jamaica). Nonetheless, if the virus is close to Jamaica, caution would
advise us to recognize that it could come to the shores of Jamaica. Further, the Zika virus has been associated with but not proven to cause birth defects. Recommendations are mainly aimed at women who are already or may become pregnant. All women of child bearing age traveling to endemic areas should consider having a pregnancy test (not 100% accurate), and if pregnant a “team” member should not come to Jamaica this year. Women (Jamaican and “team”) who are not pregnant should avoid becoming pregnant for 6 – 12 months and try to avoid mosquito bites by wearing mosquito repellant, pants, long sleeves, and a hat. The “team” stays in Jamaica at a hotel on the south shore where a strong breeze blows away the mosquitoes. A Zika virus infection test is not available commercially.
The virus causes what is called Zika fever in 20% of people infected. The symptoms are mild, usually last up to one week, and may include a fever, rash, arthritis, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). There is no specific treatment for an infection.
The virus was first described in Africa in the 1940’s. Most recently it has spread to Brazil, and there has been a marked increase in the number of babies born with microcephaly (a small head and or brain). It has not been proven that Zika viral infection in the mother is the cause. The infection has
been found in four widely spaced states in the US. The CDC has advised avoiding travel by pregnant women to 14 countries and territories in Latin American and the Caribbean. These include Mexico, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Martinique, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, and 6 countries in South America. Guidelines for further evaluation and treatment are to become available soon.
Jamaica Missions USA, Inc. ∙ 2020 Howell Mill Road ∙ Suite D243 ∙ Atlanta, GA 30318 Telephone 404-665-6725 or 1-876-831-1813 ∙ www.jmusa.org