With so many countries throughout the region reporting confirmed cases of Zika, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has placed a limit on the number of samples countries can send for testing each week.
Antigua & Barbuda’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Rhonda Sealy-Thomas made this disclosure to OBSERVER media yesterday.
“What has happened over the last month or so, CARPHA has limited the number of samples that they’re taking from countries to be done free of cost. Now that we’ve established that Zika is in the Caribbean, and with increasing local transmission in various territories, they’re advising countries not to send every suspected case, and only about five samples per week are taken per country, and maybe in only severe cases where the officials need to make a diagnosis under special circumstances,” she said.
According to the health official, even though all suspected cases are eventually sent to CARPHA for testing, not all persons who display Zika-related symptoms such as high fever, rash, swollen lymph nodes and severe joint pains, warrant further testing to determine if they’re infected with the virus.
“If there’s a high index of suspicion, the necessary steps will be taken, but not everyone who comes down with these symptoms will be sent for further testing. It depends if the person has travelled, or has other disease conditions, then the health official may need to make sure,” she added.
She admitted that at times some samples are sent to CARPHA citing symptoms related to dengue and Chikungunya, but because the symptoms mimic those of Zika, the agency would take the opportunity to test for Zika which sometimes improves the time frame for results to be known.
“It sometimes takes between one and two weeks normally for results of ZIKA testing to be sent back by CARPHA,” she said.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)