All preg­nant women in Ja­maica to be tested for Zika

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL -

The Min­istry of Health in Ja­maica will re­quire all preg­nant women to be tested for the Zika virus.

“When a woman is tested pos­i­tive for be­ing preg­nant and she has to go through the ini­tial stages of test­ing, we are go­ing to re­quire her to also do a Zika test, so that we can track, as part of the mon­i­tor­ing,” Health Min­is­ter Dr. Christo­pher Tufton an­nounced on Tues­day. An un­born child is at high risk of de­vel­op­ing mi­cro­cephaly – an ab­nor­mal small­ness of the head, which is as­so­ci­ated with in­com­plete brain devel­op­ment – if the mother is in­fected with the Zika virus dur­ing her preg­nancy.

Zika has also been linked to Guil­lain-Barré Syn­drome (GBS), a rare, neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der which causes mus­cle weak­ness and, in se­vere cases, paral­y­sis and breath­ing prob­lems, and the Min­istry of Health is there­fore pre­par­ing the In­ten­sive Care Units and High De­pen­dency ar­eas at hos­pi­tals across the coun­try in the event that per­sons are di­ag­nosed with that ill­ness.

“We will be get­ting ad­di­tional ven­ti­la­tors; we will pro­cure more and re­pair others that are not presently func­tion­ing,” Dr. Tufton said.

He had pre­vi­ously an­nounced that his min­istry, through the Na­tional Health Fund, would pro­vide J$1 mil­lion (US$8,014) to each Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment to sup­port Zika ac­tiv­i­ties at the con­stituency level up to the end of Au­gust. Up to a week and a half ago, 21 peo­ple, in­clud­ing two preg­nant women, had tested pos­i­tive for the Zika virus.

The Zika tests for all preg­nant women will be manda­tory but free of charge.

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