SAN JUAN – The government of Jamaica is spending more than $82,000 to improve the Virology Laboratory at the University of the West Indies to allow testing for the Zika virus to be done locally, a government official told EFE Thursday via phone.
Jamaican authorities currently have to send samples to Caribbean Health Agency headquarters in Trinidad, which entails a wait of 24-48 hours for results.
The upgrade to the university lab is expected to be completed within the next three weeks, cutting the wait for test results to as little as three hours.
“The biggest challenge we have is that there is no lab in Jamaica right now that has the capacity or is accredited or certified to test for Zika,” Health Minister Horace Dalley said in a statement.
The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also carries dengue fever and Chikungunya.
Endemic to Africa, Zika appeared in the Americas last year and is now present in more than a dozen nations in the region, including some of Jamaica’s Caribbean neighbors.
Though the illness is rarely deadly, the ongoing major Zika outbreak in Brazil has been linked to a massive increase in the number of babies born with abnormally small heads, a condition known as microcephaly.