While there have been no new reports of yellow fever-infected monkey carcasses being discovered, a senior wildlife officer is still warning the population not to let their guard down.
In an interview with Guardian Media, Game Warden Two Steve Seepersad advised members of the public to get vaccinated and take the necessary precautionary measures.
At a Ministry of Health briefing on February 24, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said a sample taken from a monkey carcass was sent for testing at the Caribbean Public Health Agency lab and it came back positive for the virus.
The virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes Aegypti mosquito, from one person or animal to a person.
He said then that the country needed to be on heightened alert and called on people who have not been vaccinated against yellow fever to get their shot.
Seepersad explained, “Our first line of defence in terms of malaria, yellow fever, and that sort of disease is when we see the monkeys dying. The reason for that is that those diseases are spread by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito that dwells a little under the canopy in the forest exactly where those monkeys live or where their habitats are and this is why they are affected first.”
He said on January 18, he along with public health officials, went to the Trinity Hills area, located along the Columbus Channel in south Trinidad, after receiving information about monkeys dying.
They went in search of carcasses to get a sample for testing, but they only found skeletal remains.
He said, “About two weeks later we got information about monkeys dying in the Biche area. Public health officers went and they retrieved a good carcass from in the Mount Harris area, Brigand Hill. And they tested it and it tested positive for the yellow fever virus.”
He said this occurred during the hunting season, which is now closed, so hunters were assisting them in monitoring the areas where the monkey troupes were seen.
“We have been checking to see if the monkeys are dwindling in terms of numbers or if any looking sick or if there are any other carcasses, so far nothing,” he said.
However, he said this does not mean that people must become complacent.
He added, “Because we did not have any more carcasses, the one that we got from the Brigand Hill area, Mount Harris tested positive and it means that the yellow fever virus is there so members of the public need to be aware that the virus is in Trinidad.”
He encouraged people who work in the forest or frequent the forest to get vaccinated if they have not done so already.
Seepersad also advised members of the public to take measures to ward off mosquitoes and rid their surroundings of potential breeding grounds.
Meanwhile, the Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation has been removing bulk waste, spraying for mosquitoes, and educating the public on yellow fever.
Chairman Raymond Cozier said, “We are using our internal trucks to do the removal of bulk waste in Biche and the Plum Mitan area and the Insect Vector Division is continuing spraying and the internal mike is being used to share information and advise people to be aware of yellow fever.”
Unable to embark on an expansive campaign owing to the lack of funds, the corporation last month sent a request to Central Government for $588,000 to assist with its bulk waste removal exercise to shut down potential breeding grounds in the Poole/Rio Claro, Biche, Plum Mitan, Mayaro, and Ecclesville/Bristol areas.
However, Cozier said thus far they have not received a response.