Region fighting losing battle against zika and other mosquito borne diseases

According to Dr Joy St John, director of surveillance, disease prevention and control at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the region has been “waging a losing battle and so the battle strategy needs to change if we are to win the war”.

St John was speaking at the opening of a workshop in St Kitts to develop a regional network on research and control of emerging vector-borne diseases in the Caribbean.

Zika, the latest mosquito borne disease, has been reported in more than 30 countries of the Americas. This disease, along with dengue and chikungunya, continues to threaten the health, tourism, social and economic development of the region.

The workshop, the second of two, reviewed currently available knowledge and experience of national authorities, agencies and academic institutions in the areas of control and research on vector control and integrated vector management (IVM). Participants also sought to identify operational research issues potentially useful for improving vector control.

In her opening remarks, St John said, “The workshop is about how we manage and approach the mosquito. Vector control is the be all and end all.”

She added, “Research into current systems, to discover knowledge gaps and what will lead to better prevention of illness, is part of what we hope will be outcomes of this workshop.”

The workshop ran from May 17 to 20, 2016, and included participants from the Dutch, English, French and Spanish-speaking countries. The workshop was funded by the Special Programme for Research and Training of UNICEF, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the World Health Organisation (WHO),

Since the zika outbreak, CARPHA has provided support to member states. Recent initiatives include:

• Strengthening of its laboratory capacity for the testing of zika specimens to support member states;

• Monitoring regional and global developments and providing updates for ministries of health and other key stakeholders;

• Coordinating meetings of Caribbean national epidemiologists, laboratory directors, and chief medical officers;

• Hosting of webinars with hotel owners in collaboration with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) on vector control

• The development of Zap-a-‘quito educational mobile app game

The Agency has also conducted a regional laboratory training workshop for the molecular diagnostic detection and surveillance of arboviruses in collaboration with Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which saw training of six countries including Barbados, in the use of the new Trioplex kit from CDC. (Caribbean News Now)

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