The situation related to the emergence of the Zika virus in the region of the Americas is still evolving and research is needed to provide information that will guide policy formulation and necessary interventions.

Minister of Health John Boyce stressed this point this morning as he addressed a symposium hosted by the Regional Zika Task Force of the University of the West Indies (UWI) on the theme, One Environment, One Health: Informing the Caribbean???s Response to Zika.

Mr. Boyce commended the leadership of the UWI for taking the initiative to set up the task force at this time. ???Your engagement in this issue demonstrates that above academic research in scholarly journals, the University is performing the role of a ???public academic??? through which your work will be for the direct consumption and benefit of the wider public.???

The Minister revealed that as of March 3, there were nine confirmed cases of Zika in Barbados while 277 suspected cases had been reported to the Ministry of Health.

He said that in previous years, vector borne diseases such as Chikungunya and Zika were confined to distant geographical areas and it was easy to be lulled into a sense of complacency.

???However, as we have seen with Chikungunya and Zika, this is not a time for complacency since we are confronted with a number of critical factors that contribute to vector borne diseases expanding into new habitats. Rapid international travel and trade, population movements, water management practices and climate change are among the factors that create opportunities for the global spread of these diseases.???

He submitted that control was still a very powerful response to disease vectors and there was a need for a renewed focus on vector control, ensuring that there was an integrated programme. Such a programme must include strengthened surveillance systems, the necessary laboratory infrastructure, public education and the technical expertise to utilise a range of interventions such as fogging, biological controls and source reduction methods.

Mr. Boyce said that the work of the newly established task force would play an integral role in guiding the response of regional governments, civil society and the private sector to this new threat to the health and wellbeing of the people of the region.??

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