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Expat Exchange - Zika Virus in Jamaica
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Blue Mountains in Jamaica


Zika Virus in Jamaica

By Joshua Wood, LPC

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Summary: The mosquito-borne Zika Virus is a p for people living in Jamaica. It's especially important for pregnant women to understand the risks of getting Zika during pregnancy. Learn how to limit your exposure and what to do if you get Zika.

In Jamaica, residents face concerns related to the Zika Virus transmitted by mosquitoes. Pregnant women, in particular, need to be aware of the risks associated with contracting Zika during their pregnancy. Discover ways to minimize exposure and steps to take if you contract the virus.

The Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness, has been a significant health concern in Jamaica since its first reported case in 2016. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the Zika virus, its prevalence in Jamaica, its impact on pregnancy, and preventive measures, particularly for expats. It also addresses common concerns such as the contagious nature of the virus and its potential danger for specific demographics.

What is the Zika Virus?

The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease primarily transmitted by the Aedes species of mosquito. Symptoms typically include mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, or headache. These symptoms usually last for 2-7 days. However, complications can arise, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, a condition affecting the nervous system. The most significant risk is to pregnant women, as the virus can cause congenital Zika syndrome in fetuses, leading to severe developmental issues and birth defects.

Where is Zika Most Prevalent in Jamaica?

Since the first reported case of Zika in Jamaica in 2016, the virus has been detected across the island. However, it is more prevalent in densely populated areas and regions with stagnant water bodies, which serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes. These areas include Kingston, the capital city, and other urban areas such as Montego Bay and Spanish Town.

Zika Virus and Pregnancy

Zika virus poses a significant risk to pregnant women and their unborn children. If a pregnant woman contracts the virus, it can be passed to her fetus, leading to severe birth defects known as congenital Zika syndrome. This syndrome includes microcephaly (a condition where a baby's head is significantly smaller than expected), brain abnormalities, eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth. Pregnant women in Zika-prone areas are advised to take preventive measures against mosquito bites and consider screening for the virus.

How do Expats in Jamaica Prevent Mosquito Bites?

Expats in Jamaica can take several measures to prevent mosquito bites and reduce the risk of contracting the Zika virus. These include using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, staying in places with window and door screens or air conditioning, and removing stagnant water around living areas. Pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant should consult healthcare providers before traveling to Zika-prone areas.

What if I Get Zika Virus in Jamaica?

If you contract the Zika virus in Jamaica, it's essential to seek medical attention immediately. While there's no specific treatment for Zika, symptoms can be managed with rest, rehydration, and common pain and fever medicines. Avoiding mosquito bites is crucial to prevent further spread of the virus. If you're pregnant and suspect you have Zika, immediate medical care is vital due to the potential risks to the fetus.

Is Zika Virus Contagious?

Zika virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. However, it can also be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus, through sexual contact, and possibly through blood transfusion. It's important to note that Zika is not spread through casual contact, like touching or kissing.

Is Zika Virus More Dangerous for Children, the Elderly, or Immune-Compromised?

While the Zika virus typically causes mild symptoms in healthy individuals, it can pose a greater risk to those with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly or immune-compromised. However, the most significant danger is to unborn children if a pregnant woman contracts the virus. As for children, they can experience the same symptoms as adults, but there's no evidence to suggest that Zika causes more severe disease in children.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


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