Vector Control Unit strengthening response; validating Zika testing
So far there have been 37 confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, six of whom were pregnant women. This was revealed by Acting Director at the Vector Control Services Unit, Dr. Horace Cox during an interview with News Room.
He also disclosed that there were four babies born with Microcephaly which was linked to the Zika Virus, however, the mothers were not confirmed to be Zika+.
“The routine test which is done to confirm Zika which is called PCR to put it in simple terms, that is not the same test that is done to confirm what pregnant women and once they would have been. Once we are looking to diagnose them after the period of infection, they would need an Elisa test. So it takes a lot of collaboration working with the Caribbean Public Health Agency and the Pan American Health Organisation also” Dr. Cox explains.
Currently samples are sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for testing, however, the Vector Control Unit is working with the National Reference Lab to establish Zika testing locally. They are currently at the stage of validating this test.
The Acting Director noted that “whenever a test is to be introduced in Guyana, you must validate it, you don’t just start testing and the purpose of validating the test is to ensure that in the future when Guyana says ‘you’re Zika+’, you can take that result anywhere in the Caribbean and it does recognize as a valid test result.”
Meanwhile, the most recent PAHO/WHO global situation report on Zika says as of October 27, 47 countries and territories in the Americas have confirmed autochthonous, vector-borne transmission of Zika virus disease since 2015.
In addition, five countries in the Americas have reported sexually transmitted Zika cases.
Apart from dealing with the Zika virus, the unit is building capacity and looking at ways to improve how it deals with vectors. This will be done through the use of entomology.
This approach, the Acting Director, of the Unit Dr. Horace Cox says will better inform their interventions.
“That will tell us if you have insecticide resistance; the insecticide used for the fogging exercise is effective or not, types of mosquito and where you have them, among many other things. The treated nets that we distribute to the pregnant mothers.
Additionally, the unit is looking to have a team including a trained biologist stationed within their own laboratory by the middle of December.
“At the moment, we have a biologist who was recruited and we have 6 entomological technicians who are going to complete training end of November,” Dr. Cox said.
Meantime, Dr Cox says the unit continues to collaborate with international and regional partners who give both financial and technical support.