CARPHA to brief regional leaders on Zika virus

CARPHA to brief regional leaders on Zika virus

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Trinidad-based Caribbean Regional Public Health Agency (CARPHA) will brief regional leaders on the mosquito-borne Zika virus (ZIKV) at their inter-sessional summit in Belize later this month, the Guyana-based Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretariat has announced.

It said that CARPHA will present a policy brief on the Zika virus to the leaders during their February 16-17 meeting.

The virus has so far been confirmed in five Caricom countries, and the Secretariat said that the brief will give policy recommendations for strengthening national and regional action in the face of this threat, building on the 17th Special Session of the Heads of Government of Caricom in November 2014 on public health threats.

The November meeting was held in Trinidad and Tobago to address the threats of Ebola and chikungunya.

CARPHA has stressed the need for the Caribbean to continue its coordinated response to the Zika virus following the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration on February 1 that clusters of microcephaly and other neurological disorders potentially linked to the spread of the ZIKV represent a public health emergency of international concern.

According to CARPHA, the need for the Caribbean region to continue its ongoing and coordinated response to the threat of ZIKV and any potentially associated risk has been reinforced by this, the fourth-ever such declaration.

"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," the Secretariat noted.

It said the risk of regional spread of the disease is also real because the Aedes aegypti vector is prevalent throughout the Caribbean.

"This means that it is of critical importance that, as a region, strong measures are taken to eliminate mosquito breeding and to avoid being bitten. This is especially important 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."

CARPHA 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 regional organisation has stressed the importance of a coordinated, sustained response at regional and national level that involves everyone, including those in the health, education, travel and tourism, media, local government sectors, private enterprise and householders.

Meanwhile, a WHO spokesman yesterday said it’s time for science to "step up" and tackle the "the very concerning" cases of microcephaly that could be linked to Zika virus.

Christian Lindmeier made the comments a day after the UN health agency declared Zika a global public health emergency. No vaccine exists.

Speaking via Skype from Geneva to British broadcaster Sky News, Christian Lindmeier also urged people to "keep everything on a rational level", because "not every mosquito you see flying around on the wall is an infected mosquito".

Zika has been linked to brain deformities in babies in Latin America. Several thousand cases of microcephaly have been reported in Brazil since October, although researchers have so far not proven a definitive link to the virus.

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