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Plans To Combat ZIKA

Preparing for the worst,  health officials say they are ready and waiting if the Zika virus invades our shores.

The symptoms, fever, muscle and joint pains, conjunctivitis, headache, nausea, and rash are similar to those from dengue and chikungunya, but most troubling,  a suspected link exists between Zika… And severe birth defects.

microcephaly 2Acting medical officer of health, Dr. Samuel Williams says though the link between the Zika virus and the birth defect microcephaly is still unproven, Cayman’s public health systems are taking the Zika threat seriously.

The mortality rate is high for microcephaly, but some patients do survive with microcephaly and they will experience some type of mental problems.

Dr. Williams says there have been cases of microcephaly reported in Cayman in the past, one in 20-12 and three in 20-12.

The good thing about having this baseline is that now we have a number that we could compare in case we experience an outbreak of Zika virus on the island that we can compare, if we get more cases, to our baseline.

While zika may be new to the region, the management of the complications of it aren’t necessarily new to the clinicians.

Acting chief medical officer Dr. Elizabeth McLaughlin says health professionals are aware of what to look for, but says the situation is fluid.

Dr. Williams says there are no recommendations for women to avoid becoming pregnant just yet.

The recommemdations are actually for females that are pregnant or planning to get pregnant or could get pregnant to take all necessary precautions not to be bitten by the mosquitos and not to travel to the area where local transmission has been established.

The doctors say there are still quite a few unknowns regarding Zika and its link to birth defects,  they say public health’s guidelines will evolve with time.
Public health officials say the incubation time for the Zika virus is 3 to 12 days.
Most, 80 percent of those infected will not experience any symptoms at all, those who do will experience symptoms for a week.

The mosquito research and control unit says genetically modified mosquitoes are not a part of the country’s current plans to fight the Zika virus.

Dr. William Petrie with the M-R-C-U says introducing genetically engineered “sterile” mosquitos has been an effective control tool in the past, but it’s a long term strategy.
He said to go up against the Zika virus when it arrives, the M-R-C-U will need to attack the adult mosquitos quickly with more conventional control methods like insecticides.
He said the unit worked with genetically modified mosquitos in 20-10 and again in 20-11 or 12 and says it’s unlikely that any of those would still be alive today.
“The mosquitos live about three weeks if you’re lucky so certainly none of those mosquitos are [remaining] here in cayman. And i need to stress that it’s only male mosquitos that are released and male mosquitos don’t bite. ” said Dr. William Petrie

He said it would make little sense to release genetically engineered mosquitos as they would likely be killed in the M-R-C-U’s spraying campaigns.
Dr. Petrie did reveal the M-R-C-U is in talks with the U-K company Oxitech, who are conducting trials involving genetically engineered mosquitoes in Brazil.

About the author

Joe Avary

Joe Avary

Joe Avary has been with Cayman 27 since 2014. He brings 20 years in television experience to the job, working hard every day to bring the people of Cayman stories that inform the public and make a difference in the community. Joe hopes his love for the Cayman Islands shines through in his informative and entertaining weather reports. If you have a story idea for Joe or just want to say hello, call him at 324-2141 or send an email to

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