It’s Mosquito Awareness Week

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Caribbean took a another step towards dealing with the mosquito-born Zika virus by launching Monday Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week, even as a senior regional technocrat called for greater urgency in dealing with the situation.

Assistant secretary general of the Guyana-based Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretariat Dr Douglas Slater said the institution is awaiting word from individual countries regarding at least one process that has been put in place to deal with the matter.

"We hope that while we await this affirmation by member states it will not be a deterrent for the actions that are necessary to fight the vector," he noted.

The regional leaders, at their inter-sessional summit in Belize earlier this year, endorsed a course of action to deal with the spread of the Zika virus and other diseases, including agreeing to undertake continuous public education on the virus and other diseases spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

They also agreed that there would be action to implement at ports of entry, health facilities, schools, and private enterprises such as hotels and tourism facilities.

In addition, they agreed to designate the second week of May as Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week, and governments were being asked to look at a temporary reduction in import tax on essential public health supplies, such as insecticide-treated beds, insect repellent for the duration of the epidemic in the region.

The leaders also said that the Trinidad-based Caribbean Regional Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Caricom Secretariat would report to the Council for Human and Social Development on Health on the implementation and effectiveness of the course of action the leaders have agreed to.

Dr Slater, speaking at the launch of the Week here, said the Caricom Secretariat is concerned about the presence of the Zika virus in the Caribbean for a number of reasons.

"Advisories for tourists travelling from source countries which can impact, and already we have been seeing some negative impact. We are concerned at the level of the Caricom Secretariat because of the cost implications of these diseases.

"We are hopeful that we would not have high incidences, but even at low levels we are concerned about the cost, intensive care and bring to our member states if we were to get cases such as the Guillain-Barré Syndrome, but also the risk of long-term costs, social and economic, to any case of microcephaly" or birth defects that have been reportedly associated with the virus.

The Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week is being observed under the theme ‘Small Bite, Big Threat: Fight the Bite, Destroy Mosquito Breeding Sites’.

CARPHA said that in keeping with the theme, it aims to intensify communications and mobilisation activities around vector control in all member states and to inspire communities to take action in their own homes and workplaces.

"With the emergence of Zika in the region and the approach of the rainy season, this year, Mosquito Awareness Week will focus on eliminating breeding sites and avoiding mosquito bites, especially for pregnant women," CARPHA said.

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