The Ministry of Health has scaled up its vector eradication programme in response to the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Minister of Health, John Boyce, revealed today that there were now four confirmed cases of the disease and of 27 additional samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for testing, 18 had come back negative and results were pending for the other nine.

Speaking at a press briefing, he announced the formation of a Strategic Management Team to oversee the roll-out of an intensive integrated management strategy for the eradication of vector-borne diseases.

???The objective of this programme is to significantly reduce or eradicate the vector of Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya, that is, the Aedes aegypti mosquito,??? he explained.

He outlined the components of the programme as social communication, epidemiological surveillance, laboratory diagnosis, environmental management, clinical case management and integrated vector management.

The Health Minister stated that efforts to combat the mosquito-borne diseases will include ???the fair but firm application??? of the Health Services Act 1969 in respect of the prosecution of persons found breeding mosquitos on their premises.

Steps will also include the introduction of Permethrin fog in sensitive localities such as schools and healthcare facilities, as a supplemental to Malathion; and the strengthening of laboratory capacity to support surveillance and outbreak investigation.

Mr. Boyce announced that the Ministry of Health had issued interim guidelines to healthcare providers caring for pregnant women, which included recommendations for prevention, treatment, testing and management of suspected and confirmed cases of the Zika virus.

He added that the guidelines would be updated as necessary to include the latest evidence-based recommendations in accordance with guidance from international health agencies.??The Health Minister advised pregnant women who developed symptoms to contact their doctor as soon as possible for advice on testing and further management.

Meanwhile, he urged householders to do their part by eliminating mosquito breeding sites around their home and work environments. He also advised that they take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, including wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using insect repellents and installing insect screens.??

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