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Sep 8, 2016

Healthy Living: What pregnant women must know about Zika

The first case of Zika in Belize was confirmed in May of this year. The sample which was sent to the CARPHA lab in Trinidad verified that the mosquito borne illness that had been rapidly spreading in this region was present here – in Belize City. And at this point, there have been more confirmed cases in country and is even considered endemic in Caye Caulker. It is expected that far more persons have had Zika, than those that have been tested. You see, Zika is a mild illness, less severe than dengue and Chikungunya. It is the impact the disease has on pregnant women and their unborn children that has sounded the alarms for the global medical community. At this point there are still a lot of unknown factors when it comes to Zika and the research is ongoing; but, what we do know is that it is here in country, and that our women – and men – of reproductive age need to be taking more precaution. Tonight in Healthy Living, we visit the Matron Robert’s Polyclinic to find out how they are educating men and women about the disease.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Many women inBelize, once they  suspect or confirm they are pregnant, visit a health clinic like the Matron Robert’s Polyclinic. These public health institutions offer a range of services for expecting moms and their unborn children. Since earlier this year, there’s been one new topic – one of major concern – that is being introduced into these consultations. That is: Zika prevention. Medical coordinator at the Matron Robert’s Polyclinic,  Dr Karl Jones, explains.

 

Dr Karl Jones, Medical Coordinator, Matron Robert’s Polyclinic

Dr Karl Jones

“It has become a very important of our education process that we do with our patient, especially pregnant women or those women who are of fertile age. For example you have the woman who comes in who wants a regular check up and she wants that check up because she wants to have a baby. Before that conservation would have been about: making sure you eat right, having the right weight but now, it has a lot to do with delaying your pregnancy instead of getting pregnant apart from all the other things that you’re suppose to do.”

 

What about those women who are already pregnant or simply cannot delay their pregnancy? Dr Jones says it’s all about educating them on the risks and how to prevent transmission.

 

Dr Karl Jones

“The main thing that has been suspected to be linked to Zika. Its safe to say that the publics knowledge is a bit behind when it comes to ZIKA. You have patients who come in and they would have symptoms that look like ZIKA symptoms, which are fever, rash conjunctivitis and those types of things and when you tell them it looks like you have ZIKA they are very surprised. It stood out to me actually today because I saw about three or four females with fever and rash and they were all surprised that I am mentioning ZIKA to them. Some of them you can sense that they have a bit of an idea, but for the most part the public’s knowledge is behind. If there is one thing they  know it is about microcephaly, that is the one thing that they seem interested In. but as far as transmission they also seem to know that it is transmitted by a mosquito but the sexual transmission part, that part is usually a bit of a  surprise for most people.”

 

Sexual transmission makes the risk of spreading Zika even greater. Latest research shows that Zika virus persists in semen for as long as 6 months. Which means that even if you’re pregnant, couples should be using condoms or abstaining from sex.

 

Dr Karl Jones

“The features that kind of set ZIKA apart from dengue would be the rash. It almost always comes with the rash, while in dengue it is every now and again so it’s really the fever, the rash and the conjunctivitis that really stand out and really set it apart from dengue and Chik-V. At this point we recommend for everybody who have these symptoms or may have these symptoms of ZIKA they should come in and get checked out. Its particularly important for our high risk patients to come in and get seen, our high risks would be our pregnant ladies, our children under five, our elderly over sixty-five, I f you have some other non-communicable disease, some chronic disease, lets say diabetes or you are hypertensive, lets say you have kidney failure or you have heart failure or if you have signs of muscle weakness that start down from the feet. So if you have fever or rash or any of those symptoms then it is important for you to get seen immediately. The testing right now is focused on our high risk patients, so let’s say right now you are twenty- six year old male and you come in and you have all the symptoms and you even have somebody close to your house who you know to have been diagnosed with ZIKA. You won’t be tested, we would make a diagnosis based on what we find you to have but we will not be able to at this point to do the actual testing for ZIKA.”

Each clinical diagnosis is reported to Ministry of Health for further interventions like vector control efforts. The Ministry of Health is also providing, mosquito nets, repellant and condoms to pregnant women. Presently, scientists are still trying to understand more about Zika. It is the unknown factors that has health officials urging all women & men of reproductive age to take the necessary steps to prevent transmission.

 

Dr Karl Jones

“We don’t know exactly at what point in pregnancy the product of the pregnancy, the fetus is most susceptible. So if you got ZIKA all the way at thirty-two, thirty-three, thirty-four weeks if it is okay? We don’t know if at that point you would be more or less dangerous than if you contracted ZIKA at eight, nine, ten weeks or so. Those tings aren’t known as yet.”

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