Barbados has recorded its first three cases of the Zika virus.
According to an official from the Ministry of Health, of the eight samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for testing, three were positive and five negative for the virus.
The Zika infection is a mild, febrile viral illness transmitted by the bite of a Zika virus-carrying Aedes aegyti mosquito, which is the same mosquito which causes dengue fever and chikungunya.
The main symptoms are fever, conjunctivitis, temporary arthritis, mainly in the small joints of the hands and feet, and a rash that often starts on the face and spreads throughout the body. In general, symptoms are mild and last between two and seven days.??There is no vaccine or preventive drugs. Treatment is directed at alleviating symptoms.
The public is advised that the best way to prevent infection is to minimise exposure to mosquito bites by taking preventive measures to reduce mosquito breeding. These measures include identifying and removing possible mosquito breeding sites, such as collections of stagnant water from around homes and workplaces.
Other important ways to avoid infection include wearing clothing with long sleeves and long legs, especially in the morning and late afternoon; using mosquito repellents with 30 per cent DEET concentration; and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net, especially during the day.
The Ministry official pointed out that persons might be unaware that they have the virus, as they might not develop any symptoms. Therefore, everyone, including pregnant women and women of child-bearing age, is advised to avoid exposure to mosquito bites.
Preliminary analysis of research carried out by Brazilian authorities has revealed that the greatest risks of microcephaly (small heads) and malformations appear to be associated with infection during the first three months of pregnancy.
Health authorities, with the support of the Pan American Health Organisation and other agencies, are conducting research to clarify the cause, risk factors and consequences of microcephaly. The Ministry official stated, however, that the baseline risk of microcephaly was very low.