The warning comes after meetings at the World Health Assembly now taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, and subsequent to a warning issued by the Pan American Health Organization, the ministry said in a release Tuesday.
Permanent Secretary Dr Kevin Harvey is urging persons to take the necessary precautions to rid their surroundings of places mosquitoes could breed.
Dr Harvey is currently attending the WHA along with Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson, Acting Director, Emergency, Disaster Management and Special Services, Dr Melody Ennis, and Senior Medical Officer at the May Pen Hospital, Dr Bradley Edwards.
“The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads the Zika virus is generally found in and around places where people inhabit. Persons are urged to search for and destroy mosquito breeding sites by getting rid of old tyres and containers in which water can settle, punching holes in tins before disposing, and covering large drums, barrels and tanks holding water, “ he explained.
The Zika virus is from the same family as and is similar to dengue with symptoms which include fever, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis, headache, weakness, rash, and swelling of the lower limbs. After the bite of an infected mosquito, symptoms usually appear following the incubation period of three to 12 days. The symptoms last for four to seven days. No deaths due to the Zika virus have been recorded worldwide to date.
The Zika virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito – the same mosquito that transmits chikungunya and dengue. Brazil confirmed its first cases of the Zika virus in May this year.
“The Ministry of Health is taking this potential threat very seriously. I urge Jamaicans to do their part to prevent mosquito breeding and so help to reduce any possibility of the introduction of the Zika virus into the island. There is no specific vaccine or treatment for the virus and so personal responsibility is key,” he said.
The Zika Virus was first isolated in 1947 in a Rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest, Uganda. It was first isolated in humans in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania. Outbreaks have been seen since then in countries including the island of Yap (2007), French Polynesia (2013) and Brazil (2015).