Public health officials Thursday confirmed a third local case of the Zika virus, all of which have occurred in George Town.
The Health Services Authority, now that local transmission is established, plans to limit testing for Zika based on international guidelines.
The mosquito-borne Zika virus is now transmitted locally in almost every country in South and Central America and the Caribbean. The symptoms tend to be mild, including fever, rash, red eyes and lethargy. The main concern is for pregnant women and couples hoping to conceive as the virus can cause severe birth defects in babies born to infected mothers.
Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez, Cayman’s lead public health officer, said the third case involves a woman in George Town who had not traveled to any areas with known Zika outbreaks. “It is therefore concluded that this case has been locally transmitted, bringing cases of local transmission of the Zika virus within the Cayman Islands to three, and six imported cases,” he said in a statement to the press.
With three confirmed local-transmission cases, Dr. Williams-Rodriguez explained, “The World Health Organization is advising that in geographical areas where local circulation of the Zika virus is already established, it is recommended that a fraction of all suspected cases detected during each week [ideally 10 percent] be confirmed by laboratory tests.”
He said the Health Services Authority will now only test people for Zika when they have symptoms and have no travel history to other countries with outbreaks. Cayman sends testing samples to the Caribbean Public Health Agency lab in Trinidad for suspected Zika cases, where they also test for dengue and chikungunya, which have similar symptoms.
Zika is primarily transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, identifiable by the white stripes on its legs. The virus can also be transmitted sexually. According to the World Health Organization, the only documented sexual transmission has been from men to their partners and it’s unknown if women can transmit the virus to sexual partners.
Cayman’s Mosquito Research and Control Unit has been concentrating its efforts to kill mosquitoes in the areas around where the known cases have been found. The MRCU continues to stress the steps people can take to control Aedes aegypti mosquitoes around their homes, especially getting rid of standing fresh water.
MRCU Director Bill Petrie, in the press statement, reminded residents to check their premises regularly and remove water in buckets, plant pot saucers, discarded tires, etc., as these are the favored breeding sites of the Aedes aegypti mosquito.