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Feb 17, 2016

CARICOM Braces for Zika

Dean Barrow

The mosquito borne Zika has been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization because it is believed it can cause microcephaly in newborns. So far, there are no confirmed cases in Belize, but the virus is transmitted by the aedes aegypti mosquito. As an individual country which is affected annually by vector-borne diseases such as dengue, Belize has been taking steps to prepare in the event Zika rears its head. As a region, CARICOM is doing the same, and a significant portion of the discussions by the heads of government were focused on preparations and steps to be taken.

 

Dean Barrow, Chair, CARICOM
“On zika, we endorsed a course of action to address the spread of the disease and other diseases borne by way of the aedes aegypti mosquito. The course of action includes continuous public education, action to implement measures at ports of entry, health facilities, schools, private enterprises such as hotels and tourism facilities, factories, other businesses. Concentrating on their surrounding environs in an effort to try and do whatever is necessary, fogging prevention to render them free of aedes aegypti breeding. We also agreed that we would designate the second week of May as Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week. Governments are being asked to look at and at least the temporary reduction of import tax on essential public health supplies such as insecticide-treated bed nets, insect repellant, insecticides for the duration of the epidemic in the region. Nobody knows how long it will last, but we are thinking of the possibility of two years. We have asked CARPHA and the CARICOM Secretariat to report to the Council for Human and Social Development on Health, which is an organ of the community, on the implementation and effectiveness of the course of action we’ve agreed. So there will be continuous monitoring and reporting back in the event there is anything we need to do in a more intense way or in the event it turns out that we have not been as effective in terms of implementation as we ought to be.”

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