Jamaican scientists among international experts getting Zika training
Scientists from Jamaica are among several regional experts assembled in Vienna, Austria this week for specialist training on how to rapidly detect cases of Zika the mosquito-borne virus that has been declared a global public health emergency.
The training will allow for the detection of the virus, spread by the Aedes agypti mosquito, in as little as three hours.
Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) made the disclosure at a public lecture at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus in St Andrew on Monday.
"Scientists at the UWI are key partners for us in our efforts to help Jamaica respond to the Zika virus. I understand that Jamaican scientists are participating in specialist training on Zika, which we are providing at our laboratories near Vienna this week," Amano told participants at the lecture.
"The agency takes pride in being able to react quickly to emergencies in member states, such as the recent outbreak of the Zika virus in countries of Latin America and the Caribbean," he said.
The training includes practical and epidemiological simulations, and aims to prepare national laboratories to quickly differentiate Zika from similar viruses, such as dengue and chikungunya.
The IAEA is also providing portable equipment that will allow for rapid detection of the Zika virus in the field. It is also training its local partners on how to use the equipment the same nuclear-derived technology that was made available by the IAEA in 2014 to help countries in West Africa respond to the Ebola virus outbreak.
Permanent secretary in the health ministry, Dr Kevin Harvey, told The Gleaner that up to Wednesday, Jamaica had five confirmed cases of the Zika virus, which scientists believe is linked to birth defects and paralysis. Jamaica has warned women to delay becoming pregnant by up to 12 months.
The virus has no known cure.
Amano was on a three-day official visit to Jamaica that ended Wednesday. He met with various government ministers.
On Monday, he opened the first coordination meeting for an IAEA regional project on the control of radioactive sources widely used in the region for health, agriculture and industry.