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PAHO/WHO: 2016 the year Zika became ‘long-term public health challenge’

According to the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in a statement published last week, by the end of 2016 there were 175,063 confirmed cases and 532,000 suspected cases of the Zika virus across 48 countries and territories in the Americas. The Bahamas had its first confirmed case of the Zika virus in August of 2016

PAHO said 2016 was the year that Zika “evolved from an emergency into a long term public health challenge”. The statement also pointed out that 22 countries and territories reported 2,439 cases of congenital syndrome associated with Zika and five countries had reported sexually transmitted Zika cases.

As of December 5, The Bahamas’ Ministry of Health reported that 25 confirmed cases of Zika were recorded in The Bahamas. Twenty three were on the island of New Providence, one on Bimini and one on Eleuthera.

“All cases sought medical attention after having symptoms suggestive of Zika virus infection. All patients have been treated for associated symptoms and are doing well. Based on the histories received from the cases it has been determined that there is a mix of travel associated and local transmission,” said the ministry’s statement.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Glen Beneby recently said the government plans to set aside an estimated $2.5 million every month to fight the Zika virus, which would add up to almost $30 million per year. He also warned that the virus could have a “significant” impact on the cost of healthcare.

PAHO warned that experts now consider Zika to be a “long-term public health challenge”, suggesting that precautions should continue going forward.

“Coordination and response activities by PAHO and WHO are being folded into longer-term efforts in detection, prevention, care and support. Further research is underway to strengthen preparedness and response in affected countries,” the statement said.

The virus, which is carried by the Aedes aegypti

mosquito, has attracted a vast amount of medical and health research. Dictated preventative measures include avoiding mosquito bites, eliminating mosquito breeding sites and to prevent sexual transmission, the correct use of condoms.

Efforts at Zika prevention in The Bahamas came from the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Department of Public Health, and in partnership with the Department of Environmental Health Services; all help to ensure “intense vector control” and “mosquito management”.

PAHO said it is providing technical support to its member countries in all aspects of Zika surveillance and control, “with a special focus on clinical management, laboratory services and controlling the mosquito vectors of Zika virus.”

“Regional partners are involved in vector control research including pilot studies of new control methodologies, such as mosquitoes infected by the Wolbachia bacteria.

“Community education and participation in eliminating mosquito vectors and breeding sites is a crucial tool in the long-term fight against Zika,” PAHO asserted.

The virus is now known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.


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