WASHINGTON, United States, Friday June 24, 2016 – The long-term outlook for the Americas resulting from the Zika virus outbreak is uncertain and the number of people affected is difficult to gauge, but the Pan American Health Organization is responding with a strong, four-tiered strategy to support its countries, according to Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri, PAHO’s incident manager for Zika.
In a briefing to members of PAHO’s Executive Committee, which met this week, Aldighieri said that PAHO has sent 88 experts on 53 missions to countries and territories, focusing on priority areas of detection, prevention, response and research in Zika.
He said much work remains to be done in research to define the absolute risk for congenital malformations and to describe the clinical spectrum of Zika congenital infections.
PAHO Director Dr. Carissa F. Etienne assured members of the committee that PAHO will continue to provide leadership and coordination of the Zika response.
“Our challenge will continue in the medium and long-term on Zika. Aedes aegypti is a very elusive vector with high infestation rates, but we are fully committed to our Member States as far as Zika is concerned,” she said.
The PAHO Executive Committee, chaired by Ecuador’s minister of public health, also advanced on a new strategy to prevent and control arboviral diseases including dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika, all of which have had major impacts in the Americas. Dr. Marcos Espinal, head of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis at PAHO, said that despite control efforts, dengue continues to increase, with 14 million cases and 7,000 deaths recorded between 2000 and 2014, and chikungunya has caused more than 1.7 million cases since it arrived in the region in December 2013.
“We must build on the current integrated management strategy for dengue prevention and upgrade it to a strategy for Arbovirus prevention and control,” said Espinal.
The new strategy, likely to gain final approval at PAHO’s Directing Council in September, focuses on strengthened surveillance, early detection of emerging and re-emerging arboviruses, integrated control, improved detection and diagnosis, and improved control of the mosquito vectors of these diseases.