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Zika free - WHO removes Jamaica and other regional states from list of countries with active transmission of the virus

Published:Thursday | October 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica is no longer listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) among the countries where the transmission of the Zika virus remains active.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) yesterday announced that the WHO has removed its Zika virus country classification scheme, which categorised most of the Caribbean territories, including Jamaica, as having active Zika virus transmission.

This removal by the WHO comes on the heels of data released by CARPHA, giving evidence that the Zika virus transmission in the Caribbean had been interrupted for more than 12 months, or was at undetectable levels, thereby posing very little risk to residents and visitors to the region.

This was matched by data shared with CARPHA by Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States, which showed that no Zika had been detected for more than 12 months in travellers returning from the Caribbean to their countries.

This evidence was used by CARICOM to pen a letter to the WHO director general, calling for the immediate reclassification of CARPHA Member States from Category 1 (having active Zika transmission) to Category 3 (having no Zika transmission), arguing that the classification system had outlived its useful purpose.




Executive director, CARPHA, Dr C. James Hospedales, explained that the Zika classification was not only having an adverse impact on the Caribbean, but it was also against the tenets of the International Health Regulations (IHR).

This adverse impact was confirmed by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and the Caribbean Tourism Organization, which made a formal request to CARPHA for the agency's intervention.

"The Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world. It is also one of the most popular honeymoon destinations worldwide, and ongoing cancella-tions due to the classification of most Caribbean countries as Category 1 is hurting the industry unnecessarily.

"Therefore, CARPHA felt compelled to provide the evidence and to advocate for the removal of this WHO Zika classification system," said Hospedales.

But CARPHA is encouraging Jamaicans to continue to take the usual precautions and personal protection measures since the Aedes aegypti vector exists in the region.

More than 8,000 suspected cases of the Zika virus were recorded in Jamaica between January 2016 and March 2017 when there was the last outbreak in the island.