GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department in the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA), is calling on the population to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds in order to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says the recent outbreaks of Zika fever in different regions of the world; demonstrate potential spread of this virus across territories where the vectors (Aedes mosquito) are present.
PAHO adds that the broad distribution of the mosquito vector Aedes in the Americas combined with the high mobility of persons in and outside of the Region and worldwide, represents a risk for the spread of the Zika virus in the Americas.
Zika virus is a member of the Flaviviridae family and is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. It is related to other pathogenic vector borne flaviviruses including dengue, West-Nile and Japanese encephalitis viruses but produces a comparatively mild disease in humans.
Countries endemic with Dengue and Chikungunya through the Aedes Agypti mosquitoes, are at risk for Zika virus. Based on the fact that if an infected Zika case comes to Sint Maarten, and with the presence of the Aedes Agypti mosquito this virus can be transmitted from person to person similar to the transmission mode as Dengue and Chikungunya.
CPS is advising travellers to take necessary preventive measures when abroad and to report upon their return to their family physician if they experience symptoms.
The main clinical symptoms in patients are fever, conjunctivitis, transient arthritis/arthralgia (mainly in the smaller joints of the hands and feet) and maculo-papular rash (that often starts on the face and then spreads throughout the body).
In general the disease symptoms are mild and short-lasting (2-7 days). There is no vaccine or preventive drug available
To reduce the risk of contracting Zika virus infection – as for the other mosquito-borne infections – travelers should minimize the exposure to mosquito bites by taking the following preventive measures:
- Use of anti-mosquito devices (insecticide-treated bed nets, coils, smudge pots, spray, repellents) and wearing long sleeves and clothes with long legs, especially during the hours of highest mosquito activity (morning and late afternoon). Mosquito repellent based on a 30% DEET concentration is recommended;
- Before using repellents, pregnant women and children under the age of 12 years should consult a physician or pharmacist;
For newborn children under three months, repellents are not recommended; instead, insecticide-treated bed nets should be used.
The community is requested to be on alert for the identified symptoms and to be on high alert and action in eliminating mosquito breeding sites in and around their surroundings.