Insect borne diseases pose threat to Caribbean

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PAHO warns that about 50 percent of people living in the Americas, including the Caribbean, are now at risk of one or more diseases carried by insects. (Credit: mcgill.ca)

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Tuesday April 8, 2014, CMC – The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) has warned that about 50 percent of people living in the Americas, including the Caribbean, are at risk of one or more diseases carried by insects.

The Washington-based PAHO said these insects include mosquitoes, ticks, flies and other vectors which carry diseases such as the West Nile virus, dengue, malaria and most recently chikungunya.

In a “call to action” for World Health Day 2014, top health experts from North and South America and the Caribbean urged greater efforts by governments, communities and individuals to control the spread of these and other vector-borne diseases.

“Our region has achieved many successes in controlling vector-borne diseases,” said PAHO director Dr Carissa F. Etienne.

“However, this success is being threatened by the expansion of mosquitoes and other vectors into new habitats and by the emergence of insecticide and drug resistance,” she added.

Etienne said PAHO and its partners are, therefore, calling for “stepped-up” action in the fight against vector-borne diseases in the Americas.

“We as a world are in some ways more vulnerable than ever,” said Dr Tom Frieden, director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Global dengue risk. Areas in red indicate high risk for dengue occurrence while green areas indicate low risk. (Credit: Jane Messina)

The most recent vector-borne disease to establish itself in the Americas is chikungunya, a mosquito-borne viral disease that first appeared in Tanzania in the 1950s.

In December 2013, two cases of locally acquired chikungunya were reported on the island of St Maarten.

By the end of March 2014, more than 3,000 cases had been confirmed in 10 Caribbean countries, PAHO said.

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Click on the image above to view the global interactive dengue map or visit: http://www.healthmap.org/dengue/en/

PAHO has called on governments, communities, individuals and donors to take action toward further progress and to face future threats from vector-borne diseases.

“Everyone has a role to play,” said Etienne.

PAHO, founded in 1902, is the oldest international public health organization in the world.

It works with its member countries to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of World Health Organization (WHO). Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)