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The World Health Organization (WHO) has removed its Zika virus country classification scheme which categorized Barbados and most of the Caribbean as having active Zika virus transmission.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) announced on October 18 that the region’s removal from the classification scheme was as a result of data released by CARPHA, which showed that the Zika virus transmission in the Caribbean “had been interrupted for over 12 months, or was at undetectable levels”.

This meant that there was very little risk to residents and visitors, and this evidence was matched by data shared with CARPHA by Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States, which showed that no Zika had been detected for more than 12 months in travellers returning from the Caribbean to those countries.

According to CARPHA, this evidence was used by CARICOM in a letter to the WHO Director General calling for the immediate reclassification of CARPHA member states from Category 1 (having active Zika transmission) to Category 3 (having no Zika transmission).  It was further argued that the classification system had outlived its useful purpose.

Executive Director of CARPHA, Dr. C. James Hospedales, explained that the classification was not only having an adverse effect on the Caribbean, but it was also against the tenets of the International Health Regulations.

Dr. Hospedales noted: “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.  Therefore, CARPHA felt compelled to provide the evidence, and to advocate for the removal of this WHO Zika classification scheme.”

CARPHA, the sole regional public health agency, pledged to continue to work with its member states to ensure that the Caribbean is capable of preventing, detecting and responding to public health threats affecting the region. (CARPHA)


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