Following reports of suspected Zika virus reported in Brazil, the health ministries of several Caribbean countries have issued advisories for the mosquito borne viral disease.
On Thursday, the Jamaica Health Ministry issued an epidemiological alert after the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) noted the potential spread of this arbovirus across territories where the vectors (Aedes) are present.
The Aedes mosquito is present in much of the Americas and also transmits dengue fever and chikungunya.
In addition, Trinidad and Tobago health officials also issued an advisory, asking that citizens prepare for the mosquito-borne diseases that come with the approaching rainy season, including the Zika virus.
In early 2014, the first locally acquired transmission of Zika virus in the Americas was reported on Easter Island, according to the Chilean Ministry of Health.
Zika fever is caused by the Zika virus (ZIKAV), an arbovirus the flavivirus genus (family Flaviviridae), very close phylogenetically to viruses such as dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, or West Nile virus.
The Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitoes of the genus Aedes, in urban areas (A. aegypti) as well as in the wild. After an infected mosquito bite, the disease symptoms usually appear following an incubation period of three to twelve days.
The infection may present itself as asymptomatic or with a moderate clinical picture; no fatal cases have been detected to date. In symptomatic cases, with moderate disease, the symptoms appear acutely and include fever, non-purulent conjunctivitis, headache, myalgia and arthralgia, asthenia, maculopapular rash, edema in the lower limbs and less frequently, retro-orbital pain, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain. The symptoms last for 4-7 days and are self-limiting.
Complications (neurological, autoimmune) are rare and have only been identified in the epidemic in French Polynesia.
To date, no death attributed to Zika virus infection has been reported in any of the outbreaks.