Cayman prepares for Zika

As the World Health Organization prepares for an emergency meeting Monday on the mosquito-borne Zika virus, Cayman’s public health officials say they are prepared to deal with the potential for Zika reaching the islands.

Several Cayman government agencies met Friday afternoon to plan for the possibility of Zika showing up in Cayman. Following the meeting, the country’s leading public health officer Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez, said, the Mosquito Research and Control Unit “has plans in place to tackle the Aedes aegypti mosquito currently and in the case that the disease is introduced, to limit local transmission.”

The Zika virus has turned up in most South and Central American countries and many Caribbean states. Health officials have linked the virus to a worrying uptick in a birth defect called microcephaly, causing babies to be born with underdeveloped brains and small heads.

Brazil reported about 4,000 microcephaly cases in the past year, compared to less than 150 infants born with the condition in 2014.

Public health officials in several countries have warned women to avoid getting pregnant while the virus is still a problem. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued travel warnings for pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant, telling them to postpone travel if possible.

In the United Kingdom, public health officials have warned women returning from affected countries against trying to have a baby for a least a month.

Zika is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are also responsible for spreading Dengue and Chikungunya. For those not concerned with pregnancy, Dr. Williams-Rodriguez said, “Zika is a milder disease compared to Dengue and ChickV and complications are rare.”

Cayman has long battled the Aedes mosquitoes through the Mosquito Research and Control Unit. The main thrust of Cayman’s mosquito control operations involve spraying from trucks and an airplane. For controlling the Aedes mosquitos, the MRCU notes, “Help from the public can help to seriously reduce numbers. Clear up trash and other sources of standing water, including buckets, dog bowls, ornamentals, plant pots and tires. Anything that will hold water when it rains will provide the perfect breeding site for this mosquito.”

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  1. ZIKA. Certainly, this is not what Cayman needs to deal with, in terms of its population and tourism. We must take the most vigilant approach protecting pregnant women from a potential epidemic. We cannot afford to let our hair down considering the devastating condition known as fetal microcephaly this mosquito leaves behind. Perhaps all aircraft and passengers be sprayed before deplaning, just as some African countries do.