CARPHA Un­rav­els the “Mys­tery” Be­hind the Zika Num­bers

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Caribbean Pub­lic Health Agency (CARPHA) re­ports that pos­i­tive Zika cases con­firmed by lab­o­ra­tory test­ing rep­re­sents only the “tip of the ice­berg”. This means that the num­ber of con­firmed Zika cases pub­lished in the me­dia is only a small num­ber of infected per­sons who were tested and con­firmed as pos­i­tive for hav­ing the dis­ease.

Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor, CARPHA, Dr. C. James Hospedales said, “Of­ten­times, when the fig­ures of con­firmed lab­o­ra­tory cases of dis­eases such as Chikun­gunya and Zika are re­ported to the me­dia, the pub­lic re­acts with sur­prise and sus­pi­cion, even com­ment­ing that the gov­ern­ment and CARPHA are try­ing to cover up the real fig­ures.”

Dr Hospedales stated that this is far from the truth as re­ported fig­ures are only lab­o­ra­tory con­firmed pos­i­tive cases and do not rep­re­sent ev­ery­one who has been infected. These fig­ures are what is de­scribed as the “tip of the ice­berg” (see di­a­gram of the Ice­berg Phenomenon).

With re­gards to the Zika out­break, the re­ported cases are per­sons who have been infected with Zika and then sought med­i­cal at­ten­tion. They are the ones who were el­i­gi­ble for test­ing and were then tested. These per­sons would have been iden­ti­fied as be­ing in a ‘high risk’ cat­e­gory, namely, preg­nant women, chil­dren un­der the age of five years, adults over 65 years, hos­pi­talised pa­tients and per­sons with co-mor­bidi­ties (with chronic ill­nesses).

The Ice­berg Phenomenon states that only a small per­cent­age of all infected per­sons end up be­ing lab­o­ra­tory con­firmed pos­i­tive cases. The Ice­berg Phenomenon is im­por­tant and pro­vides valu­able in­for­ma­tion for pub­lic health de­ci­sion-mak­ing. It gives an in­di­ca­tion of the mag­ni­tude of the in­fec­tion so that ac­tion can be taken to reach those who can­not be seen and are ‘un­der the water’.

The Ice­berg Phenomenon.

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