Testing for mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya can now be carried out in the Cayman Islands after the Health Services Authority’s laboratory was authorized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do the screenings.

Previously, the only laboratories in the region that were accredited to test for the diseases were in Jamaica and Trinidad. Cases in Cayman had to await results from those labs.

According to a press release from the HSA, the waiting time for confirmation of mosquito-borne diseases “can be significantly reduced.”

While the testing will be carried out in Cayman, test samples will still be sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency, Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez advised.

The improvements in capabilities of the lab were made possible by the acquisition of an Applied Biosystems 7500 Real-Time PCR System and training of the laboratory staff, a press release states.

Dr. Williams-Rodriguez said authorization by the CDC for local testing is significant because “it further enhances the capabilities of the HSA to not only detect in real time certain viruses, but provide timely intervention in the management of patients and enhances our public health surveillance and response capabilities.”

He said Cayman previously had to wait between three and five weeks for results from the regional lab. “This presented a challenge for clinicians in the delivery of patient care and created emotional anxieties for patients and families,” he said.

A statement to the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority from the Centers for Disease Control said: “CDC is pleased to inform you that the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority, Public Health laboratory has successfully completed the Trioplex Real-time RT-PCR verification panel with a score of 100% correct, indicating that the assay is performing as expected in your laboratory.”

Dr. Williams-Rodriguez noted that “The equipment can also test for almost any other viruses that could pose a threat to public health, which is an important advancement of our capabilities given the emerging and re-emergence of mosquito-borne viruses and other diseases in the region.”

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