by Linda Straker
Persons who have travelled to places where the Zika virus is known to have infected persons are urged to get tested, to ensure that they are clear of the mosquito-borne vector disease which is identified as having a direct link to microcephaly in babies and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) in adults.
Health Minister Nickolas Steele confirmed during Tuesday’s post cabinet briefing, that a lab with the capacity to test pregnant women for the Zika virus, has arrived on the island and will soon become operational.
The lab, which will be located at the St George’s Medical Centre, was donated to Grenada for a 2-month period from Women and Health Alliance International — an international, non-profit, non-governmental organisation based in France. This organization was launched by Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al-Nahyan, with the over-arching goal of addressing maternal and neonatal health in disadvantaged communities throughout the world.
Though the lab will be based in St George’s, there will be community schedules at which pregnant women, in particular, will get the test done. “And if need be, we will visit persons in their homes,” said the Health Minister. At present, Grenada is free of the virus, but the action of any one person can change that scenario.
“People, therefore, need to take all precautions and follow the recommendations of using repellents and other protection such as wearing long-sleeved clothing,” Minister Steele stated. The Government has already indicated its intention to increase its mosquito fogging operations, and distribute repellent to pregnant women.
Steele also said that priority is not only given to test pregnant women, but also persons classified as high-risk. “These are persons who visited any of the islands which presently have the Zika virus. For example, persons who visited Trinidad for the carnival, Barbados or Guyana for any reason, should get tested, because only 1 in every 4 persons with the virus would show any symptoms,” he explained.
He said that it is these persons who can cause an outbreak, and also made a plea to private healthcare providers to please report any suspected or confirmed cases to the Ministry. The lab is made available free of cost to Grenada, but Government but will have to pay for the test kits.