By: Devina Samaroo
The number of Zika cases in Guyana might be grossly underestimated since many patients refuse to give consent for their blood samples to be sent for testing overseas.
Though they do not incur any expense whatsoever to have their blood samples sent for testing to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad for the Zika Virus, masses of Guyanese opted not to take this route.
Public Health Minister Dr George Norton explained that because the Zika Virus has not proven to be lethal or severely harmful, persons prefer not to go through the hassle of finding out if they are infected or not.
The mosquito-borne Zika virus usually causes mild symptoms in adults, with a low fever, headaches and joint pain.
“It’s not like Chikungunya or Dengue where persons are in uncomfortable pain,” he pointed out.
However, Dr Norton said the only time health officials insist that the blood samples be sent for testing is when they are attending to pregnant women since the Zika Virus is linked to severe birth defects, including microcephaly which is the abnormal smallness of the head.
There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika but the symptoms can be treated.
There are currently five confirmed cases of the Zika Virus in Guyana and hundreds of suspected cases.
The first case was detected in an East Bank Demerara (EBD) woman who had travelled to Berbice, while the second case is a teenage boy residing at Eccles, EBD.
Later on, the virus was detected in two Cuban doctors, who reside in Guyana and another woman – all of whom live along the EBD corridor.
There is also a case where a US citizen was infected with the Virus after travelling from Guyana but there was no confirmation if the visitor contracted the disease here.
In Guyana, if patients exhibit symptoms similar to Zika Virus, they are first tested for other related infections like Malaria, Dengue or Chikungunya. If those test results are negative, the blood samples would then be sent overseas to test for the Zika Virus. In most cases, the test results come back as negative.
Because of this, health officials are suspicious that another virus might be coming into play.
However, Dr Norton said samples were sent to CARPHA to test for possible viruses other than the Zika Virus but the results also came back negative.
The Minister had told media operatives that a large number of doctors have related that they have come across varying symptoms that do not correspond with those of the Zika virus.
Effects of Zika
French researchers recently discovered that in addition to causing severe birth defects, the Zika Virus can result in a rare neurological ailment in adults and is linked to paralysis-causing myelitis (inflammation in the spinal cord).
Myelitis can affect limb movement and cause paralysis by interrupting communication between the spinal cord and the rest of the body.
French experts reported that a 15-year-old girl diagnosed on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe with acute myelitis in January had high levels of Zika in her cerebrospinal fluid, blood and urine.
“The presence of Zika virus in the cerebrospinal fluid of our patient with acute myelitis suggests that this virus might be neurotropic” — something that attacks the nervous system,” the researchers noted.
Also, there have been less than a handful of reported cases of sexual transmission.