Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kenneth George, speaking at the opening of a training workshop being conducted by USAID yesterday. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

While sporadic cases of Zika continue to be reported in the Caribbean, there have been no confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne disease in Barbados since 2017.

This was disclosed by Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kenneth George, yesterday, as he addressed the opening of a training workshop being conducted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its Breakthrough ACTION project.

The three-day workshop, designed for local environmental health officers, has as its theme Strengthening the Zika and Arborvirus Response: Using Effective Interpersonal Communication for a Whole Family Response to Zika.

Dr. George noted that, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), 48 countries and territories in the Americas had confirmed autochthonous vector-borne transmission of the Zika virus since 2015.

In 2016, the World Health Organization declared Zika to be “a public health emergency of international concern” with the major concern being the link between Zika and microcephaly in infants, and between Zika and Guillain-Barre in adults.

The Chief Medical Officer stressed the importance of proactive measures in preventing vector-borne diseases. “The oldest and most cost-effective method of prevention is the mechanical method, which includes eliminating breeding sites and improving environmental, community and personal hygiene,” he stated.

This method, he said, relied heavily on public education aimed at getting people involved in eradicating breeding sites and limiting human exposure to mosquitoes.

Noting the value of training opportunities, such as the workshop, in Government’s efforts to improve the Zika and arboviral response in Barbados, Dr. George added: “It is a treasured opportunity which the Ministry is extremely appreciative of, as it will undoubtedly enhance the knowledge, skills and competency of our environmental health officers working in the area of vector control.”

This is the third training workshop facilitated by USAID, in the area of Zika response, in which Barbados has participated. The other two took place last year. Engaging Communities in the Zika Response was held in Guatemala in April, and The Role of Innovative and Strategic Social and Behaviour Change took place in Jamaica in June.

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