PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday October 19, 2018 — Advocacy from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has resulted in the World Health Organization (WHO) removing the “Zika virus country” label from territories in the region.
The Trinidad-based CARPHA said yesterday that the move came on the heels of data it released, which gave evidence that Zika virus transmission in the Caribbean had been interrupted for over 12 months, or was at undetectable levels, thereby posing very little risk to residents and visitors to the region.
“This was matched by data shared with CARPHA by Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States of America, which showed that no Zika had been detected for over 12 months in travellers returning from the Caribbean to their countries,” CARPHA said in a statement.
That evidence was used by CARICOM to pen a letter to the WHO Director General calling for the immediate reclassification of CARPHA member states from Category 1 (having active Zika transmission) to Category 3 (having no Zika transmission), arguing that the classification system had outlived its useful purpose.
CARPHA Executive Director, Dr James Hospedales explained that the Zika classification was not only having an adverse impact on the Caribbean, but it was also against the tenets of the International Health Regulations (IHR).
This adverse impact was confirmed by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and the Caribbean Tourism Organization , who made a formal request to CARPHA for the Agency’s intervention.
“The Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world. It is also one of the most popular honeymoon destinations worldwide and ongoing cancellations due to the classification of most Caribbean countries as Category 1 is hurting the industry unnecessarily,” Dr Hospedales said. “Therefore, CARPHA felt compelled to provide the evidence and to advocate for the removal of this WHO Zika classification system.”
The efforts of CARPHA, its member states, CARICOM, and other regional and international agencies yielded fruit, as the WHO Zika virus country classification scheme is now no longer active, the region’s public health agency said.
CARPHA has pledged to continue to work with its member states to ensure that the Caribbean is capable of preventing, detecting and responding to public health threats affecting the region.