Health Ministry Officials Brief Journalists on Zika Virus

Health Ministry Officials Brief Journalists on Zika Virus

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The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare through the Directorate of Health Promotion and Education on Tuesday briefed journalists about the Zika virus disease.

The Zika virus disease is an emerging mosquito-borne virus named after the Zika Forest in Uganda. The virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys through monitoring of sylvatic yellow fever.

According to health officials, the virus was identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania, and the outbreak of Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

Speaking at the briefing in Kanifing, Dembo Fatty, senior programme officer, MoHSW, said the briefing programme is an ongoing one by his Ministry and partners and it is meant to inform and create awareness among the general public.

He stated that the incubation period about the virus is not clear, but is likely to be in few days, adding that the recent increase in congenital anomalies, Guillain-Barre syndrome and other neurological and auto-immune syndromes are being reported in areas where outbreaks have occurred.

“The media is one of the fastest medium in getting the information to the general public where emergency response is concerned,” he added.

According to him, the symptoms are similar to other arbovirus infections such as dengue fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscles and joint paint, malaise, and headache amongst others.

He maintained that since the outbreak occurred in the other part of the world, the country has never seen any single case of Zika virus but noted that this should not stop them from raising awareness about the disease.

For her part, Rohey Njie, health communications officer, said the Zika virus is a disease that is seen in the sub-region. “As we do in the country nothing caught us by surprise as we are always on alert to strengthen our mood of preparedness, this is why the WHO [World Health Organisation] is supporting countries to control Zika virus in the sub-region in which The Gambia is also among,” she said.

Mass Joof, a staff of the Health Communication Office said the symptoms of the virus are usually mild and last for 2-7 days, noting that people with the virus usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital. He added that the Zika virus can remain in the blood of an infected person for about a week and found longer in some people, noting that once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infection.

Jobe said that infection with Zika virus may be suspected based on symptoms and recent travel history or residence, noting that the virus can only be confirmed by laboratory testing for the presence of Zika virus in blood or other body fluids such as urine and saliva.

by Arfang MS Camara