Disease control efforts are carried out nationwide. Photo: Jorge Luis Tellez

Cuban health authorities have announced that no cases of the Zika virus have been reported in the country to date (February 9), while also warning that they will increase surveillance and sanitation precautions, given the geographical location of the island and the genuine threat of the virus spreading to the region.

According to doctors Beatriz Marcheco Teruel, director of the National Center of Genetic Medicine, and Roberto Álvarez Fumero, head of the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) Infant-Maternal department, speaking to Granma, the Zika virus was first detected in 1947 in Uganda, Africa, and is transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito with sufferers presenting no visible symptoms for the first seven to 10 days; 70% of those infected do not need to be admitted to hospital, while the disease has recently been linked to skull malformations in newborns and the development of Guillain-Barré syndrome in adults.

Declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee, according to the international press, cases have been reported in 26 countries worldwide. There is great concern over a possible link between pregnant mothers infected with the virus and a rise in microcephaly rates, studies of which are currently being conducted.

According to Cuban health professionals, signs to watch out for include a fever above 38 degrees, rashes, conjunctivitis, migraines and joint pain. They advise persons presenting any of these symptoms to immediately contact their doctor, as no known cure or preventative vaccine for the virus currently exists.

The threat is not solely limited to women of childbearing age, however they and pregnant women should avoid contact with mosquitoes and potentially infected people. Citizens are being asked to take care when interacting with visitors from countries where the illness has been reported, noted Dr. Marcheco Teruel.

Pregnant women are also being urged to attended all prenatal medical check-ups; take folic acid daily, and undergo prenatal diagnostic testing (identification, 15-week evaluation, first, second and third trimester ultrasounds, and a 33-week evaluation), as well as report signs of any of the characteristic symptoms to their doctor, in case of suspected infection.

Meanwhile, Dr. Álvarez Fumero warns the rest of the population to take personal measures to protect themselves, such as maintaining good personal hygiene, using mosquito nets, wearing appropriate clothing, using repellents and avoiding contact with people experiencing fever.

Communities and families are advised to locate and destroy possible mosquito breeding sites, get rid of any stagnant water, cooperate with fumigators, work with health and sanitation personnel, and eliminate potential risks of infection.
People suffering from a high temperature and associated symptoms are advised to take paracetamol and dipirona, but avoid aspirin as it can increase the risk of bleeding, noted the MINSAP representative.

National news outlets are urging all citizens to take personal risk prevention actions, apply disease control measures at home, and keep communal spaces clean.

In order to avoid deaths and damage to the population, Cuba is consciously preparing to tackle this global outbreak, by providing information to citizens and carrying out timely prevention measures.