World Health Organization: Caribbean No Longer High-Level Threat For Zika Transmission
By Sharelle Burt
For once, it looks like our beloved Caribbean is catching a break.
The World Health Organization is finally removing the Caribbean from the list of high-level threats for the dreaded Zika virus. The mosquito-borne virus causes severe congenital disabilities during pregnancy and can be spread sexually and through blood transfusions. Zika virus transmission in the region has been interrupted for more than a year and reached undetectable levels, posing little risk to residents and visitors, according to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
This comes as good news with data showing Canada, United Kingdom, Europe, and the U.S. had no detection of Zika for over 12 months in travelers returning from the Caribbean. CARPHA reached out to the WHO Director-General, asking for immediate reclassification for Caribbean countries after several complaints were filed from the region’s tourism industry. Soon after, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) confirmed the classification was having serious effects on tourism and made a formal request to CARPHA for help.
“The Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world. It is also one of the most popular honeymoon destinations worldwide and ongoing cancellations due to the classification of most Caribbean countries as Category 1 is hurting the industry unnecessarily,” Dr. C. James Hospedales Executive Director of CARPHA said in a statement. “Therefore, CARPHA felt compelled to provide the evidence and to advocate for the removal of this WHO Zika classification system.”
Back in the summer of 2015, the deadly virus caused a complete media frenzy here in the state, having people afraid to even leave their homes in fear of being bitten by a mosquito. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued travel guidance on affected countries, including the use of enhanced precautions, and guidelines for pregnant women like considering postponing travel. Countries like Columbia, Puerto Rico and Jamaica even cautioned women not to get pregnant while this virus was spreading rapidly.
The next step is in the hands of the U.S. Center for Disease Control. They will need to reduce or eliminate its travel advisories for Caribbean destinations.