A “serious threat to Trinidad and Tobago.”
That’s how Secretary of the Division of Health and Social Services Claudia Groome-Duke described the Zika virus, which has impacted most of South and Central America and several Caribbean islands.
At Wednesday’s post Executive Council media briefing at the Administrative Complex, Calder Hall, the Secretary said her Division will provide anti-mosquito support to the public during Carnival 2016.
Groome-Duke said the Division has procured treated mosquito nets to be distributed to pregnant women who can’t afford them. She also provided advice on precautions the public can take to reduce their chances of being bitten while enjoying Carnival.
“Wear long sleeve shirts and pants [and] avoid dark colours because the dark colours attract mosquitoes,” Groome-Duke advised. There will be residual spraying in communities. And insect repellent and hand sanitizer stations will be positioned at Carnival events to reduce the impact of the mosquito and encourage cleanliness.
The Secretary pointed out that Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh has declared a national health emergency due to the threat of the Zika virus. She called on all Tobagonians to assist in ensuring the disease does not come to Tobago by helping to eradicate its carrier, the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.
“Our message to the people of Tobago is ‘don’t get bite’, keep your surroundings clean,” Groome-Duke said. “We have learned that no vaccine exists to prevent Zika.”
County Medical Officer of Health Vishwanath Partapsingh told members of the media the Tobago Public Health Emergency Response team “is a multi-sectoral team. Given the nature of the disease or the nature of the threat, or the nature of the emergency, we will recruit different sectors.” Partapsingh said key stakeholders in the tourism sector will help deal with the Zika threat.
He added that information on the Zika virus, including signs and symptoms, has been disseminated to the public. Partapsingh said training has been scheduled for perifocal workers (those who deal primarily with infections) who conduct home visits, along with 211 workers, “so that information is available to the public if required.”
Partapsingh said the Division will continue to conduct vector surveillance.
“What we’re really doing is just making sure that the systems continue to function smoothly,” he said. “That’s the point of surveillance; if something were to happen we can detect it early and so mount the response.”
“The clinical care is very similar to that of the dengue and chikungunya, which is similar to Zika,” he added. He said the TRHA can provide the required clinical care to anyone who is infected.