Wed | Aug 16, 2017

More money to fight ZIKV – ACP Council approves funding

Published:Friday | April 29, 2016 | 4:00 AM
Johnson Smith

As the Zika virus (ZIKV) continues to rapidly spread across the world, the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Council of Ministers has agreed to the allocation of more funding to help fight the mosquito-borne virus.

Approved on Wednesday on the final day of the 103rd Session of the ACP Council in Dakar, Senegal, the money will be provided under the 11th European Development Fund to support the Caribbean's fight against ZIKV.

ACP Secretary General Dr Patrick Gomes told a news conference that "on the Zika virus, an allocation is going to be made so that we can contribute to how that can be addressed because it is affecting the tourist industry. It is affecting also the conditions of health."

He added, "A fixed amount has not been decided as yet, but that is being programmed, and it will have to take into account other allocations that are being made."

Lobbying on behalf of CARIFORUM, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, had proposed to the council that "intra-ACP funds be made available to support the fight against the Zika virus in Jamaica and the other countries in the Caribbean in light of its serious potential for economic and social harm".

With approximately 36 countries across the Americas and the Caribbean now affected by the virus, health agencies across the world have been taking an aggressive approach to stemming the spread, especially in light of findings that ZIKV is linked to at least three major health illnesses.

ZIKV COMPLICATIONS

Among the complications that can develop from contracting ZIKV are microcephaly - an abnormal growth of the brain and stunting of the growth of the head of the foetus arising from infection in the first months of pregnancy. Babies who develop microcephaly in the womb may not live to full term, may be born prematurely, may be stillborn, or may survive, but with lifelong disability. ZIKV is also linked to the autoimmune disease Guillain-Barre syndrome; and another autoimmune disease that targets the peripheral nerves, an autoimmune condition known as acute disseminated encephalomyelitis.

PUBLIC-HEALTH EMERGENCY

A close relation to the mosquito-carrying diseases dengue fever and chikungunya, ZIKV can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared ZIKV a global public-health emergency, posing greater risk to infants, pregnant women, the elderly, and persons with pre-existing medical conditions.

WHO Director-general Dr Margaret Chan said that in less than a year, the status of the Zika virus has changed from "a mild medical curiosity" to a disease with severe public-health implications.

Last month, the head of the United Nations health agency issued a new warning on the virus, saying that "the more we know, the worse things look."

Jamaica now has eight confirmed cases of ZIKV.