The Caribbean Public Health Agency (Carpha) has said that authorities in the region should be alert to the possible spread of the Zika virus, which is transmitted by the same mosquito that carries dengue fever and chikungunya.

“The symptoms of Zika virus are very mild but have a few symptoms similar to chikungunya. Most people do not realise they had Zika virus. Both are transmitted by the bite of a mosquito and Aedes aegypti, which is responsible for our dengue and Chik epidemics, has been reported to transmit Zika,” CARPHA’s Christian Frederickson had said.

The Jamaican government announced earlier this week that it was working on a public education campaign to raise awareness about the Zika virus. A health ministry spokeswoman told Efe the decision responded to an alarming rise of confirmed Zika cases in Brazil, where more than 16 people were diagnosed with the virus after experiencing symptoms such as high fever, joint and muscle pain, headaches and rashes. “Since the same mosquito (Aedes aegypti) is responsible for transmitting all three viruses, the control activities are the same,” Frederickson said.

The Zika virus was isolated for the first time in 1947 in blood samples from monkeys in Uganda’s Zika forest. The samples were used in health research to control yellow fever.

The virus is endemic in West Africa and cases have been reported in Asia and Oceania, with epidemics in Malaysia and Micronesia in 2007. Carpha member states are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bermuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bonaire, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Martin, Saba, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands.

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