Chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Dr Keith Mitchell announced on Thursday, that the leadership of the sub-region will be adopting a 4-step harmonized approach aimed at keeping the Zika virus away from the islands.
“Acknowledging the OECS to be a single health and economic space, and considering the impact of concerns over a possible Zika outbreak, the OECS Ministers for Health have agreed to a harmonized approach involving leadership at the highest level, engagement at the widest community level, coupled with partnership from national, regional and international agencies to address this challenge,” said Dr Mitchell who is Prime Minister of Grenada.
Explaining that public awareness is the most important weapon in this battle — the region can only successfully defeat the threat of this disease if all citizens and visitors understand what must be done. “This battle is foremost about protecting the lives of our people against this disease, but it is also about protecting our livelihoods — our vital tourism industry on which so many rely,” he said in an address which was aired throughout various OECS radio station from midday on Thursday.
To date, there have been no confirmed cases of Zika in the majority of OECS Member States, and in the coming weeks proactive measures and stronger coordination will be the focus, the Chairman assured nationals of the OECS.
These measures will include leadership at the Ministerial and Parliamentary levels to mobilize communities in country-wide campaigns to eradicate mosquito breeding sites and to destroy the existing adult population.
Partnerships with stakeholders, including the tourism industry, to promote measures to prevent all mosquito-borne illnesses among residents and visitors alike, and robust vector and disease surveillance, including increased premises inspection, mosquito eradication and control measures, especially in areas of high population density
The OECS-wide campaign will have 4 elements to it:
- Monitoring and surveillance — a close alliance of national, regional and international public health agencies to keep close tabs on the disease, and using this intelligence to attempt to keep ahead of the disease
- Eradication and protection actions — by national authorities, communities, and workplaces aimed at the most rapid elimination of the mosquito by a variety of measures including fogging, removal of potential breeding sites, use of mosquito nets, and skin protection sprays
- Care and case management — putting in place arrangements in the public health service to manage any cases that may present themselves
- A widespread public education campaign to inform and educate citizens on the status of the threat, and the measures that we can and should take at the personal and community levels.
The OECS comprises the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands are associate members of the OECS.