Tightening legislation to safeguard against mosquito borne viruses

The Grenada government has announced that it is looking at ways to tighten legislation to help safeguard citizens against mosquito borne diseases in the country.

The announcement came amidst the presence of a new epidemic, the Zika Virus (Zik-V) in the Caribbean.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Senator Simon Stiell, made the disclosure last week Tuesday in light of the Caribbean Public Health Agency’s (CARPHAs) announcement on November 12, of five confirmed cases of the Zik-V in neighbouring Trinidad.

Addressing reporters at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing at the Ministerial Complex, Sen. Stiell said health officials have noticed a 4% reduction in the mosquito index and a proper legal framework would ensure that each household do their part to minimise mosquito breeding grounds.

“We have seen a significant reduction in the mosquito index from 14% in January of this year, down to 10% in September…we would be looking at ways to give further teeth to the legal framework that ensures that we as a country does all that it can to ensure that the negative effects of this virus (Zik-V) are kept at an absolute minimum,” he said.

Sen. Stiell was providing the nation with an update on the epidemic in the absence of Health Minister, Nicholas Steele.

A CARPHA release indicated that this is the first time Zik-V has been detected in the Caribbean.

According to the Pan American Health  Organization (PAHO) the epidemic was first detected in Brazil in July.

Sen. Stiell disclosed that as a preventative measure, local health officials have commenced an entomological surveillance system at all ports of entry (sea, land and air) within the tri-island-state to search for the carrier of the Zik-V, and the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the same insect vector for Dengue fever and Chikungunya viruses.

(ZikV) is a viral disease related to dengue, yellow fever, West Nile and Japanese encephalitis, viruses that are also members of the virus family Flaviviridae, a family of viruses in which humans and mammals serve as natural hosts.

The most common symptoms of the Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eye.

The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.

Sen. Stiell said health officials have also “intensified chemical treatment and fogging” in specific areas throughout the country, which is expected to “bring the mosquito index down further.”

The government member who was unable to provide detailed information in relation to the specific areas identified for fogging said, “The fogging will be focused in areas where there are known mosquito issues and also within the tourism belt.”

He said the Ministry of Health’s recent acquisition of a “mechanized fogger” would supplement the existing fogging equipment.

Meanwhile, Executive Director, CARPHA, Dr. C. James Hospedales has emphasized that prevention and control are fundamental in order to prevent transmission of the (ZikV) virus.

“The best way to protect yourself from this disease is to avoid mosquito bites and to prevent mosquitoes breeding in and around your home environment,” Dr. Hospedales said.

Sen. Stiell encouraged the populace to inspect their homes and yards weekly, and eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites both indoors and outdoors by keeping water drums and barrels tightly covered, and throwing out stagnant water from flower vases, old tyres, and other containers that might act as breeding sites.

“Prevention is probably the most powerful tool we have,” he said, noting “prevention does not only require the intervention of the Ministry of Health or the government, it requires every householder, citizen and community to participate with the prime aim of reducing the breeding ground for the mosquitoes…

“Facts sheets have been published and (are) being widely distributed. The fact sheet tells us more about the virus, symptoms, treatment and the preventions, how do we keep the impact of Zik-V down to an absolute minimum.”

The Minister of State also announced that there would be radio and television campaigns to help push the Zik-V sensitisation process.

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