Address by Chairman of OECS, Dr. the Rt. Hon. Dr. Keith Mitchell – Keep Zika Away
Argentine and Brazilian doctors name larvicide as potential cause of microcephaly
CTO Public Service Announcement for Media
Distributed as a Public Service Announcement To Radio and TV stations throughout the Caribbean in all Member-countries of the Caribbean Tourism Organization
Whoever said prevention is better than cure, could well have been talking about mosquitoes.
Today, everyone is concerned about a mosquito-borne virus called Zika, a rare tropical disease which has now been found in countries in The Americas, including the Caribbean.
The virus is being associated with birth defects; and although that link is still unconfirmed, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, are warned to be particularly vigilant.
All communities must approach this matter seriously and aggressively, recognizing that the most effective way to control Zika, is to eliminate mosquitoes.
Here are some important steps to take immediately.
Start now to clean up your surroundings.
Get rid of all mosquito breeding areas by avoiding the build-up of rubbish. Put garbage in closed containers.
Clear gutters and drains and remove stagnant water.
Remove coconut shells, old tyres, old appliances – anything that could contain standing water. Cover all water tanks.
Clear your surroundings of bush, tall grass, old bricks and construction materials; those are all places were mosquitoes could hide.
To further reduce your risk of being bitten, use insect repellent that contains DEET; wear loose, light-colored clothing that covers your arms and legs; and sleep under a mosquito net.
Mount a massive prevention campaign to protect yourself, your family and your community.
Keep Zika out of your life.
FAQs on ZIKA and Travel to the Caribbean
The spread of the Zika virus in the Americas, with Brazil as the epicentre, and the possible though not yet proven accompanying link to microcephaly has, understandably, caused concern. The Level 2 alert issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created doubt among some potential travellers to the Caribbean as to whether or not their health is at risk and whether or not they should continue with their travel plans.
Conflicting information about the virus, coupled with the yet unconfirmed link to microcephaly, has led to uncertainty and confusion, which in turn leads to panic.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) are aware that you have a number of questions about your travel plans. We have therefore compiled a series of Frequently Asked Questions in relation to Zika and travel to the Caribbean. We hope you will find these details helpful. We implore you not to panic.
CAPRHA, CTO and CHTA Webinar on Zika
Secretary General’s Interview on CNN about ZIKA
CTO and CHTA Statement on the ZIKA Virus
Public health authorities in the Caribbean are working diligently to mitigate the effects of the Zika virus. Zika, also known as ZIKV, is spread primarily by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
The public-sector-led Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and its private sector counterpart, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) are in close contact with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to monitor and research the Zika cases that have now surfaced in some Caribbean destinations, and to communicate prevention and control measures to residents and visitors.
The CTO and CHTA are in communication with their respective stakeholders and are observing national, regional and international health protocols in dealing with mosquito-borne viral diseases which can be found in tropical countries.
With more than 700 islands in 30 territories in the Caribbean, conditions will vary from one nation to another.
CTO and CHTA will continue to monitor all developments related to mosquito-borne viral diseases and to support appropriate communication, education and prevention initiatives.
CARPHA ZIKA WEBSITE: https://carpha.org/What-We-Do/Public-Health/Zika
CTO Public Service Announcement for Media
ZIKA – The Disease
ZIKA- Regional Perspective
ZIKA and Tourism
Ethical Issues – ZIKA Virus in the Caribbean
ZIKA – Surveillance
Zika and Tourism
The Caribbean is the one of the most tourism dependent regions in the world, thus travel related diseases like Zika have the huge potential to negatively affect the economies and tourism destination reputation of Caribbean countries. In fact, according to our partners, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and Caribbean Hotel and Tourism association (CHTA), there are already reports of travel cancellations in the Caribbean due Zika.
While Tourism related travel is the Caribbean’s major economic earner, it also contributes to disease spread. The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) indicated a record 26.3 million stay over tourists and 24.5M cruise ship arrivals in 2014, a 5.3 percent rise over 2013, and this trend continued in 2015. These visitors spent US$29.2 billion, another record for Caribbean tourism. The US continues to be the region’s primary market, with nearly 13 million Americans, just under half of the total arrivals to the region.
However, high and increasing levels of visitor arrivals increase the potential risk for visitors and locals transmitting or acquiring diseases from each other. This was typified by SARs in 2000, the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, Chikungunya in 2013 and now Zika. Thus, heightened concern, alerts and specific measures for travelers have resulted from regional and international health agencies like CARPHA, PAHO, WHO and CDC.
The consequences of reduced tourist numbers for the millions of people in the Caribbean whose livelihoods depend on the sector can be serious, contributing to adverse economic and social burden on Caribbean economies. As travel increases, the number of Zika cases among travelers will likely increase and the potential negative impact on Caribbean tourism –dependent economies will likely escalate.
In May 2015, the first local transmission of Zika virus was reported in South America. To date, no locally transmitted Zika cases have been reported in continental United States, but cases have been reported in returning travelers. Local spread of the virus in the US can stem from imported cases as Aedes vectors are present in some states.
Consequently, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through their Traveler Health branch, has been urging all travelers visiting Latin American and the Caribbean countries where Zika virus circulation has been confirmed, to take extra precautions against mosquito bites to avoid contracting the virus.
The CDC’s Travel notices, designed to inform travelers and clinicians about current health issues related to specific destinations, especially those posing a risk to the US, can be of 3 types
- Level 1: Watch level : Practice Usual precautions
- Level 2: Alert level: Practice Enhanced Precautions
- Level 3 Avoid Non Essential Travel
On Friday January 22, CDC upgraded the warning for selected countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where locally acquired cases were confirmed to a Level 2 travel notice. This notification recommends special precautions for pregnant women, who are advised to consider postponing travel, and for women of childbearing age who are planning to become pregnant, who are advised to consult with their doctor before traveling, due to the probable association between Zika virus infection in pregnancy and adverse fetal outcomes. All travelers are urged to, as usual, strictly adhere to mosquito bite precautions.
So how is CARPHA addressing the impact of Zika on tourism?
CARPHA, through its integrated regional Tourism and Health program, and in collaboration with its partners, CTO and CHTA, is taking a holistic aggressive approach to travel-related Zika (and other mosquito borne infections) through prevention and control that includes the following:
- Updated guidelines for Zika prevention in travelers and in hotels/guesthouses, for circulation in hotels and other tourism stay-over lodgings by CHTA and in cruise ships by CLIA (Cruise Line International Agency).
- An aggressive public awareness campaign for the tourism industry, that includes sharing facts with the media, travelers and the public
- Agreement with CTO and CHTA to embark on a joint enhanced vector control program in hotels . This will include the sharing of best practices with the industry (via various means including webinars)
- Joint and ongoing discussions with CDC Traveler’s Health and other international agencies like PAHO, PHAC and PHE , UK re travel advisories, Zika prevention, its risk and impact on tourism
- Teleconferences/Webinars with hotel, cruise ship industry and Ministries of Health re Zika prevention in hotels and cruise ships, surveillance guidelines and joint public health action if necessary
- Using the CaTHNET forum for rapid dissemination of information and outbreak prevention and control. CaTHNet, established by CARPHA in December 2015, is a network of public health agencies designed to rapidly share relevant information on issues of public health concern to travelers visiting the Caribbean region, to promote global health security. Current agencies on this network include the CDC, PHE and PHAC
So in conclusion, we would like to send a message to travelers coming to the Caribbean, “Don’t let the mosquitos ruin your travel”! While, there is no vaccine to prevent contracting Zika or medicine to treat Zika, travelers can protect themselves against Zika and other mosquito borne infections like chikungunya and dengue by preventing mosquito bites. We thus urge travelers to:
- Use insect repellent
- Stay and sleep in screened /air conditioning rooms (hotels/lodgings)
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
In the same vein, we would like to send a message to hotels and guesthouses, to enhance measures to avoid mosquito breeding in your compound and surroundings including
- Avoid storing water in outdoor containers that can collect water and become breeding sites.
- Cover water tanks or reservoirs so that mosquitoes do not get in.
- Uncover/unblock gutters and drains to release stagnant water.
- Install mosquito screening on windows and doors
- Consider supplying guests with bed nets in areas where the sleeping quarters are
- Consider placing having insect repellents in every room, or having them available for purchase
- Provide staff and guests with information