On Thursday April 7, 2016, World Health Day, Saint Lucians were informed via the office of the Chief Medical Officer, of the confirmation of the island’s first two (recorded) cases of the Zika Virus. The disclosure was made via a press conference that morning.
At the press conference members of the local media were informed that the laboratory at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad had confirmed the cases late Wednesday April 6. “Of the two cases, one is a 25-year-old male and the other case is a 28-year-old female,” Dr. Sharon Belmar-George chief medical officer in the Ministry of Health informed the media. “Both patients are stable and are receiving the necessary care as per established protocols,” she went on to state.
It was further disclosed that the two individuals are from the Castries basin and are not presently admitted at any medical facility. The Ministry of Health says that an outbreak investigation team has been deployed to conduct a full epidemiological investigation pertaining to these cases. The individuals did not have a history of recent travel to a Zika affected country.
Zika, which is a mosquito-borne disease, is spread by daytime-active Aedes mosquitoes. Symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, headaches and vomiting. Zika fever in pregnant women is said to be associated with microcephaly particularly in Brazil. The virus is said to affect foetuses, causing babies to be born with abnormal smallness of the head, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development.
The female Zika patient in Saint Lucia is reportedly pregnant.
Earlier this month Trinidad & Tobago recorded its first case of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in a pregnant woman. This was the Republic’s ninth recorded Zika case overall. The case prompted renewed calls for a woman’s right to abortion in cases where her life or that of the unborn child may be at risk.
“The time has come for Government to review laws on the grounds for terminating a pregnancy,” Hazel Brown, co-ordinator of the Network of Non-Governmental Organizations in Trinidad said last week.
There has been no such debate here in Saint Lucia where in 2003 the island’s abortion laws were amended. The new law allows abortion in cases of rape, incest or if needed to protect the “health” of the mother.
Prior debate of the bill was cancelled by then prime minister Kenny Anthony following the receipt of a 9,000-signature petition presented by Archbishop Kelvin Felix demanding that the legislation be shelved.
The legislation was passed 13-1, the only dissident being pro-life cabinet minister and former minister of health Sara Flood-Beaubrun.