The Zika Virus has wreaked havoc in Brazil, threatening the lives of mothers and newborns.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) confirmed this week that the virus is now in the French Caribbean Island of Martinique, sparking concern among health officials on nearby islands.
“We know that there is a possibility that we could get it because we have very close travel ties with Martinique; with the French territories and with Dominica as well. It has been detected thus far in Martinique, the same sort of route as when we got our first case of Chikungunyacannot say now with 100 percent safety that we do not have the Zika Virus here,” said Nahum Jn Baptiste, Saint Lucia’s National Epidemiologist.
Zika is a viral disease, transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also the insect vector for Dengue and Chikungunya.
Citizens say education – including the message of keeping the environment clean needs to be heeded by all – is the key.
“I think that the message really should go out on TV and on radio. Let all Saint Lucians know about the dangers, especially with the Aedes Egypti. We’re always experiencing Dengue, sometime last year we had Chikunguyna and now we have the Zika, the same mosquito. Saint Lucians should try to take care of their surroundings and check drums, flowers vases and so on,” said Michael Best.
For citizens like Michael Palmer, government’s focus should be on surveillance – particularly at the nation’s ports of entry.
“What the government should do right now to prevent the outbreak of this virus here in Saint Lucia, is to cancel all flights in and outgoing to Martinique for the time being and make sure our surroundings here in Saint Lucia are very clean,” he said.
The local health ministry has emphasized that while Zika is not a life-threatening illness, it must be taken seriously. Symptoms of Zika include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. It has also been linked to birth defects.
According to PAHO, Martinique is the 11th country in the Americas to report the virus in 2015, adding to what the Organization describes as “wave after wave of vector borne diseases” in the region in the last two years.