More resources are urgently needed to fight the spread of Zika in the Americas, and the apparently related increase in microcephaly and other complications says Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Dr. Carissa Etienne. She was addressing Ministers of health today in a meeting convened by the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), in Montevideo, Uruguay.
She said it is important that all countries in the Americas allocate new resources to step up mosquito control efforts, prepare their health services for an increase in demand, carry out public education campaigns and track the spread of Zika and increases in suspected complications of the virus, including microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. “This work will require tangible and explicit support from the highest political levels,” Etienne told ministers of health at the meeting.
Later, in remarks to reporters, Etienne announced a new PAHO strategy to help countries mitigate the impact of Zika by strengthening their abilities to detect the introduction and spread of the virus, reduce mosquito populations, ensure the necessary healthcare services, and effectively communicate with the public on risks and prevention measures. To implement this strategy, PAHO is seeking an initial $8.5 million from the international community to support country efforts.
Etienne stated further that gaps in knowledge about Zika should not delay action to fight the virus. She also appealed for special attention to the needs of women of child-bearing age, and particularly women in low-income communities, who often lack access to the information and health services they need to protect themselves.
Following the meeting, the ministers of health of MERCOSUR and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) issued a joint declaration pledging to improve their countries’ mosquito-control strategies by drawing on recent experience and by simultaneously targeting not only Zika but other mosquito-borne viruses, especially dengue and chikungunya. To date, 26 countries and territories of the Americas have reported local transmission of Zika virus infection.
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