Categorized | National News

$30 Million For Zika Fight

With The Bahamas having eight confirmed cases of Zika Virus and 83 suspected cases pending, officials from the Ministry of Tourism in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and the Department of Environment Health Services held an informational session yesterday at the British Colonial Hilton.

Key stakeholders, as well as members of the public, were present at the session and posed questions to the officials from the various ministries.

The government’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Glen Beneby spoke to reporters after the meeting and revealed how much the government is spending to combat this issue.

“The current budget is $2.5 million a month, so an annual budget of $30 million a year; the dynamics of public health require you to have a budget to deal with whatever changes occur.

“In addition when situations like this occur, they go beyond what you expect, after it was made known to the Ministry of Health that we would have potential Zika cases we began to look at upgrading our services in the public health sector, once we got our first case, we realized that we would have to do additional spending,” Dr. Beneby said.

Zika  is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes. People with Zika virus disease can have symptoms including mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache.

One of the more concerning aspects around the Zika virus is the fact that samples have to be flown out of the country to a reference lab and then officials have to wait two to three weeks for these results to be confirmed.

However, Dr. Beneby did confirm that plans are in progress to rectify the lab situation here in the country.

“It’s going to cost us in the region of $50,000 to $100,000 to modify the lab situation and have the lab ready. Fortunately, we have people in the country who could do the testing, so we had to purchase the equipment and upgrade the space which will be done very soon.

“I’m very optimistic at this pivotal moment as we look towards universal healthcare coverage it becomes very clear to the Bahamian people how important it is to work together as a community.

Testing time should be reduced by more than 50 percent but that turnaround time will be determine by the number of tests but it will be less than a week.

“We have decided that we will have weekly updates and I see that remaining for the time being but if it’s an increasing number of cases we will make it more frequent,” Dr. Beneby said.

A question posed by a citizen at the session was concerning the screening process surrounding blood donors seeing that the lab tests take two to three weeks. Dr. Beneby said that an in depth questionnaire is currently the primary screening process.

“The Bahamas has been for many years compliant to the international standard for blood testing obviously this Zika requirement is something that has occurred to us fairly quickly, now that the CDC is recommending a similar screening process in testing for blood donation we will fall in line.

In regards to the disease and prevention itself, Dr. Beneby lamented on the fact that over 80 per cent of persons with Zika do not display any clinical symptoms.

“This is a significant point because there is always the real possibility that somebody can get the virus and don’t know they have the virus and this is why we recommend that if you go to an area where the virus in endemic, where it’s actually happening that you pay particular attention when you return to The Bahamas,” Dr. Beneby said.

Health officials are also stressing the importance of safe sex practices and the use of condoms, particularly married couples as the virus lives in semen for up to 60 days.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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