(Trinidad Express) – Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram has called on all persons who haven’t been vaccinated against the yellow fever disease to do so immediately as the country needs to be on heightened alert following the detection of the disease in a red howler monkey.
Parasram, who was speaking at the Ministry of Health’s virtual Covid-19 press conference on Wednesday, said the ministry through its Insect Vector Control Division along with the Veterinary Public Health department, has a long-standing practice of continuously assessing and engaging in surveillance for diseased or deceased red howler monkeys in the forested areas.
“What we have noticed is over the past couple months, there has been an increase in the number of deaths of these animals within certain districts in the southern region, in particular the Plum Mitan and Biche areas, and adjacent areas. There is a contiguous forested area going all the way to Rio Claro in which we see and have sighted in the recent weeks, those animals coming to the fore out of the forest…usually a sign of illness and of course having some disease.
“So we would have taken samples last week of one red howler carcass to the Veterinary Public Health lab and having done a necropsy on that animal, it would have been highly suggestive of yellow fever.
Thereafter, we would have taken a sample which was sent to our Caribbean Public Health Agency lab and they tested that, and yesterday they actually returned a positive for yellow fever to us.”
He said that yellow fever is a Flavivirus from the Arboviral and it is vector-borne, meaning it’s transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes Aegypti mosquito or haemagogus mosquito, from one person or one animal to a person.
“What it means for us to find a positive animal with yellow fever in the country is that we need to be on heightened alert, and what we have to do as a population is ensure we do have our vaccination for yellow fever.
Generally speaking, yellow fever is a disease that is covered in our childhood immunization schedule, therefore at one year of age you would get your vaccine for yellow fever. Once you have that single dose it will cover you for life, you don’t have to have a repeat dose.”
He said they are calling on persons who would be at particular risk of actually going into forested areas such as veterinary personnel, laboratory workers who routinely handle the wild-type virus, namely agriculture personnel who frequent forested areas, as well as hunters, forest workers, venture seekers, Defence Force personnel, persons residing in or near forested areas, healthcare workers that frequent these areas, or anyone with reasons to enter such areas, to ensure they’re vaccinated.