No local cases; Zika continues to spread across the Americas

Thirty-one countries in the Americas have documented local cases of Zika, the mosquito-borne virus that has been linked to causing birth defects in babies of infected women.

An emergency committee with the World Health Organization and the Pan-American Health Organization has been working to coordinate a response to the virus, while new cases, mostly from people who have visited infected countries, continue to show up from Kansas to Cuba.

The Cayman Islands has no documented Zika cases, according to Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez, the country’s leading public health official with the Health Services Authority.

Responding to questions by email, Dr. Williams said, “So far, no patient meeting the case definition for ZikaV has been identified and tested in the Cayman Islands.”

He added that samples are regularly sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency to be tested for dengue and chikungunya, and some are also tested for Zika.

At a press conference last month, Premier Alden McLaughlin said, “In all likelihood the virus will find its way here in the coming months.”

Most neighboring countries, including Jamaica, have confirmed local cases of Zika. Cuba has reported four imported cases of the virus, though the country has not said there is any transmission locally.

A recent World Health Organization update notes that sexual transmission of Zika is “more common than we thought.”

Only one-fifth of the people infected with Zika will ever show symptoms, including fever, rash and joint pain, according to the WHO. Zika is of particular concern for pregnant women. Dr. Williams writes, “Investigations are ongoing to establish if there is any association between ZikaV and microcephaly and other congenital malformations, and/or Guillain-Barre Syndrome.”

Microcephaly is a serious birth defect: babies are born with small heads and underdeveloped brains.

In its most recent report, the WHO’s Zika committee noted, “So far an increase in microcephaly and other neonatal malformations has only been reported in Brazil and French Polynesia, although two cases linked to a stay in Brazil were detected in the United States of America and Slovenia.”

WHO researchers said they are also investigating microcephaly cases in Columbia.

Dr. Williams said, “The incidence of microcephaly and [Guillain-Barre Syndrome] in the Cayman Islands has not increased.”

Cuba recently reported four imported cases of Zika. “Due to the proximity and constant traveling between Cuba and the Cayman Islands we are monitoring the situation in Cuba very closely,” Dr. Williams said.