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OECS countries agree on harmonized approach to fight against Zika

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Friday February 5, 2016 – Ministers of Health of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have agreed on a harmonized approach to combating the fast spreading Zika virus which has already affected more than 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

OECS chairman and Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who made the announcement yesterday, said the effort includes monitoring and surveillance, eradication and protection, care and case management, and public education campaigns.

Specifically, it will see leadership at the ministerial and parliamentary levels to mobilize communities in country-wide campaigns to eradicate mosquito breeding sites, and destroy the existing adult population; partnerships with stakeholders including the tourism industry, to promote measures to prevent all mosquito-borne illnesses among residents and visitors; and robust vector and disease surveillance, including increased premises inspection, mosquito eradication and control measures especially in areas of high population density.


Video – Keep ZIKA away: Address by Chairman of the OECS Dr. the Rt. Hon Dr Keith Mitchell

Several member states have already started implementing the measures.

Mitchell noted that while not all countries of the OECS are among the more than 20 countries that have confirmed cases of Zika, the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has defined the Zika risk as covering Latin America and the Caribbean because of the speed with which the virus is spreading.

Against that background, he said, the sub-region had to take action.

“We can only successfully defeat the threat of this disease if all citizens and visitors understand what must be done. We also need to communicate and demonstrate to the outside world the determined effort that we will undertake so that visitors will not be fearful of coming to our shores,” the OECS chairman stressed.

“This battle is foremost about protecting the lives of our people against this disease. But it’s also about protecting our livelihooods – our vital tourism industry on which so many of us rely. Fear cannot be the answer to this threat. Only determined, collective action will be. We are therefore declaring February the month of concerted action by all stakeholders.”

Mitchell said the effort would involve the private sector – especially the tourism industry –, the trade unions, churches and other civic bodies.

At the regional level, the air and sea ports will be asked to play a key role in preventing vector transmission, while the OECS Pharmaceutical Procurement Service will be undertaking central purchasing of mosquito control related commodities and services.

The OECS Council of Ministers will oversee the harmonization effort.

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