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UWI Forms ZIKA Virus Task Force

While health officials in Belize have assured the public that they are taking precautions and engaging in public awareness campaigns as they relate to the ZIKA virus, one institution that has taken on their own initiative as a response to the growing threat of the virus in the Caribbean region.  The University of the West Indies has put together a ZIKA virus task force which will leverage the university’s expertise and coordinate efforts with regional governments, health ministries and other agencies to combat the virus.  Chairing the task force is Professor Clive Landis, the Deputy Principal of the University’s Cavehill Campus in Barbados while scholars, scientists and public health experts will make up the task force.  According to a release sent out by the UWI, the UWI Regional Zika virus Task Force will help inform an aggressive and scientifically – based prevention strategy to eliminate breeding sites for the Aedes species mosquitoes. The Task Force will work closely with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the regional ministries of health to pool resources to research and analyse the Zika virus outbreak and associated health complications in the Caribbean, and conduct economic impact studies and engage with ministries on outbreak preparedness.  Once all this data is accumulated, a regional observatory will collate, organise and disseminate information about the virus and will make the university’s expertise accessible to researchers, government agencies, schools, health facilities and members of the general public.  Within the next three to four weeks, the task force will hold a symposium with the participation of regional ministries of health, donor agencies as well as national and regional public health agencies and tourism stakeholders.  The release ended by stating, quote, “Many countries in the Caribbean region have already declared states of emergency over the Zika virus outbreak. Ministers of Health from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have agreed on a harmonised approach to confronting the fast-spreading virus which to date has affected more than 30 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.  The OECS effort includes monitoring and surveillance, eradication and protection, care and case management, and public education campaigns. Several member states have already started implementing the measures and The OECS Council of Ministers will oversee the harmonisation effort.”  End of quote.