On Saturday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Jamaica issued a release saying that Jamaica has now recorded its first confirmed case of Zika virus.
The patient is a 4-year-old child from Portmore, St Catherine who has now recovered from the illness. The child first showed symptoms on January 17, the sample was sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) lab in Trinidad for testing on January 26 and the positive test result was received from CARPHA on January 29.
(The press release is posted on the MOH website.)
In its tweets on Saturday, the MOH indicated the change in the country’s status by changing its Zika campaign hashtag from #BeAwareZikaIsNear
A press conference is scheduled for Monday, February 1, 2016, to update the country on this new (but not unexpected) development.
It is essential that the Ministry of Health, along with other Government agencies, develop and maintain clear, regular, reliable, responsive and trustworthy lines of communication with the general public, as well as with specific stakeholders & organizations. This is necessary at all times, but increases in importance during public health crises. People need up-to-date information and opportunities to ask questions and get answers, and they need to know where to go for reliable, official information.
The communication with the public during the ChikV epidemic in 2014 and the major fire at the Riverton Dump in 2015 was exceptionally poor, and left the public ill-informed, frustrated, angry and vulnerable. The experience so far with the Zika virus has been an improvement, and the Ministry must continue to build on this and not drop the ball.
And if I were going to be attending the press conference, these are some of the questions I would want to ask: