PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Tuesday July 4, 2017 – Even though the number of cases of Zika have significantly declined from the outbreak of 2016, there is still need for continued vigilance and action on mosquito borne diseases, which pose a health security threat, a tourism threat, and an economic threat, Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Dr James Hospedales has warned.
This newest mosquito borne disease to the region came on the heels of Chikungunya, which affected the health and economic structure of most countries and territories.
In late 2015, the Caribbean confirmed its first case of the Zika virus, followed by a dramatic increase in 2016. The number of laboratory requests and confirmed tests peaked in August that year, then began a steady decline to December.
The Zika epidemic has shown signs of a significant slow-down, and the risk to residents and visitors is deemed much lower. However, the region continues to struggle and fight the Aedes aegypti mosquito which is responsible for Zika’s transmission, regional health officials say.
“The region has seen dengue, Chikungunya, and now Zika which is transmitted by the same mosquito, and the key to tackling them is prevention and control. We must continue to literally wage war on them. But we need to be smarter. We need new approaches and technologies and partners against this threat, which is present throughout most of the tropical world,” said Dr Hospedales.
Zika has been associated with an increase in Guillian Barre syndromes (GBS) in five CARPHA member states (CMS). A Zika-associated case of microcephaly has also been reported in one country.
No reports of sexually transmitted Zika cases in CMS have been documented.
CARPHA revealed that its reference laboratory has received thousands of requests for testing, and as of April 2017, 24 members states reported locally transmitted cases of the virus.