PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Wednesday February 3, 2016 – The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) says the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of the Zika virus as a public health emergency of international concern reinforces the need for Caribbean countries to push a coordinated response to the Zika threat.
It says the classification presents an ever bigger problem for the tourism-dependent region.
“The increased level of attention created by this declaration has the potential for further impact on the travel and tourism industry, particularly as most Caribbean economies are so highly dependent on tourism,” CARPHA said, adding that the risk of the spread of the disease is “also real” because the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the virus, is prevalent throughout the region.
“This means that it is of critical importance that, as a region, we take strong measures to eliminate mosquito breeding and avoid being bitten, and that is particularly so for persons at risk of complications of Zika, such as pregnant women and all should work to those ends to minimise human and economic damage.”
To date, Zika has been confirmed in five Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – Barbados, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica and Suriname. A number of other Caribbean jurisdictions have also reported Zika transmission.
CARPHA said it has supported its member states by enhancing regional surveillance and the agency’s capacity for ZIKV testing, by monitoring regional and global developments, partnering with regional and international stakeholders, and providing updates for Ministries of Health and other key stakeholders.
“The importance of a coordinated, sustained, all of society response at regional and national level has been stressed, which includes health, education, travel and tourism, media, local government and other sectors including private enterprise and householders,” it said.
CARPHA has prepared a policy brief for the Intersessional Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government on February 16 -17 in Belize, which will give policy recommendations for strengthening national and regional action in the face of the Zika threat.
Additionally, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), CARPHA will soon launch a Caribbean Mosquito Control Awareness Week, which has been agreed with the Council of Health Ministers.