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Lessons from chikV prompt ZIKV action

Published:Thursday | January 21, 2016 | 1:00 AM
Alejandro Varés, general manager of Caribbean Cement Company Limited.

The Caribbean Cement Company Limited is investing $2.3 million in a partnership project with the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation and the Ministry of Health to kick-start what it hopes will be a successful, sustained effort at keeping the Zika virus infection to a minimum when it inevitably hits the Jamaican shores.

The vector control community interventions are set to get under way in communities from Bull Bay to Bayshore to Rockfort by next Monday when 100 persons will be engaged in a range of activities aimed at raising public awareness about the need and various ways to clear up, clean up, and cover up in order to keep their environment free of mosquitoes.

The overall aim, according Alejandro VarÈs, general manager of Carib Cement, which operates out of Rockfort, St Andrew, is to sensitise people about effectively neutralising the breeding of mosquitoes. He is optimistic that other members of the private sector will jump on board very soon.

"The fact that we take care of our own area could be a first step towards more companies doing the same in the respective areas or communities in which they operate," he told The Gleaner during Tuesday's official launch of the private-public partnership.

However, VarÈs admitted that Carib Cement's proactive stance this time around was, in fact, prompted by the harsh lessons of 2014 when the chikungunya virus (chik-V) wreaked havoc with its workforce. Productivity slumped as many employees reported sick, and even when they returned to work, they performed well below standard, still reeling from the effects of chik-V.

Impact on families

And while the impact of worker absenteeism was easily identifiable, VarÈs pointed to the no-less-stressful impact on families that now had to find extra money to foot medical bills at a time when, in some cases, both breadwinners were rendered inactive by chik-V.

Heath Minister Horace Dalley, who was then assigned to the Ministry of Finance and Planning, on Tuesday opined that to date, the full extent of the economic fallout from the 2014 chikungunya episode was yet to be ascertained.

"We helped to provide funding to combat that epidemic at the time, but, to date, neither the private sector nor Government has been able to quantify the impact on the economy as a result of the illness and absenteeism, but we know that a lot of Jamaicans were affected by the chikungunya virus."

- C.S.