GEORGETOWN: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have announced a series of actions that their nations will undergo to confront the Zika virus, including reducing taxes on imported supplies to be used in the fight against the virus and protecting citizens from the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that transmit the virus.
The course of action includes continuous public education, implementation of measures at ports of entry, health facilities, schools, private enterprises (such as hotels and tourism facilities), factories and other businesses, said CARICOM chairman and Belize Prime Minister, Dean Barrow.
Barrow also said governments were being asked to reduce import tax on essential public health supplies such as insecticide-treated bed nets and insect repellent for the duration of the epidemic in the region, which they estimated would be approximately two years.
Barrow also announced that the second week of May would be designated as “Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week”.
“We have asked CARPHA and the CARICOM Secretariat to report to the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) on health, which is an organ of the Community on the effectiveness of the course of action we’ve agreed on so there will be continuous monitoring and reporting,” he said.
Zika is spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes), which can last from a few days to a week.
While the illness is usually mild, there have been reports of a link to microcephaly – a condition in which a baby’s brain and head are unusually small – and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with the Zika virus while pregnant.