With five children, some of child-bearing age, Melyse Fleurilus, a community health worker at HAS, worries about Zika within her own family. Every time experts from HAS or the Haitian government talk about Zika on the radio, she tunes in.
“Our house is small, so when I listen, everyone listens!” she said. “After the talks are over, I make my children ask me questions so I know they really understood. I never stop being an educator, even in my own house.”
So far, by using practical solutions such as insect repellant, mosquito nets, and controlling open water sources, Melyse has been able to prevent her own family members from contracting Zika.
When it comes to preventing Zika within the communities that she serves, Melyse is equally passionate about education for her patients, knowing the potential health threats of Zika. In pregnant women who are infected, the virus can cross the placenta and attack fetal nerve cells that form the cortex, which can lead to birth defects including microcephaly. In addition, other problems have been detected among fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth, such as absent or poorly developed brain structures, defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth. These defects not only have a direct impact on the health of these children, but also on the health and well-being of the family related to the long-term care of these children in resource-limited settings. The disease can also cause short term paralysis in some infected persons.
Melyse insists that the measures we must take to prevent Zika are a natural extension of the work she and the rest of the HAS community health team already do, and says that we need more resources to expand the reach of our Zika education and prevention initiatives to as many people as possible.
Melyse has made it her mission to educate women on the dangers of becoming pregnant now, before their immunity against Zika has developed. She educates women on contraceptive options, helping each woman find a method that is right for them, while providing the education they need to feel comfortable and knowledgeable in using it.
“Because Zika can be transmitted sexually, it is also important to explain to people that they need to use condoms if the other partner has or recently has had Zika,” she said.
She first heard about Zika last November, when the Haitian Ministry of Public Health made a radio announcement about the Zika outbreak in Haiti. Soon after, Dr. Hedwige Pierre, Medical Director for HAS Integrated Community Services, organized Zika virus
She first heard about Zika last November, when the Haitian Ministry of Public Health made a radio announcement about the Zika outbreak in Haiti. Soon after, Dr. Hedwige Pierre, Medical Director for HAS Integrated Community Services, organized Zika virus trainings for all HAS Community Health Workers. With her colleagues, Melyse learned the common signs and symptoms of Zika, including conjunctivitis, fever, and joint pain. She learned about the specific mosquito that spreads Zika, how it can be transmitted sexually, and also about its links to microcephaly and other birth defects.
Melyse’s passion for her job, and for educating as many people as possible on how to prevent the spread of Zika is our best tool in our fight against Zika.“I love every part of my job because it saves lives,” she said. “Helping people make healthy decisions saves lives.”
“I love every part of my job because it saves lives,” she said. “Helping people make healthy decisions saves lives.”