The Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Sport and Human Services is pleased to announce that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has updated its Zika travel information website to reflect that the Turks and Caicos Islands is among the countries with current or past Zika transmission but no outbreak. In the case of the TCI, the last confirmed case of Zika was reported in January 2017.
The CDCs Zika travel information website provides information to prospective travelers about the risk of acquiring Zika when traveling to different countries. It is a tool to help travelers make informed decisions about whether to travel to a particular destination.
The Caribbean Public Health Agency, the regional public health agency of which TCI is a member, has previously issued a statement on October 19th 2018, indicating “that the Zika virus transmission in the Caribbean had been interrupted for over 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 of America, which showed that no Zika had been detected for over 12 months in travelers returning from the Caribbean to their countries”.
On October 17th 2018, World Health Organization (WHO) discontinued the Zika classification scheme which saw several Caribbean countries, including the TCI, characterized as having “new introduction or reintroduction with ongoing Zika transmission”. The discontinuation came after much advocacy from several Ministries of Health including the Turks and Caicos, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). However, the Zika label remained on much of the region based on the United States’ CDC travel advisory website. The CDC travel advisory continued to have an adverse impact on the hotel and tourism industry of the Caribbean, the most tourism-dependent region in the world, and one of the most popular honeymoon destinations worldwide.
According to Dr. James Hospedales, Executive Director of CARPHA, ongoing cancellations due to the classification of most Caribbean countries was hurting the industry unnecessarily. Thus, the new categorization on the CDC travel advisory website is welcomed news for the TCI and the region.
The Ministry of Health has continued its efforts to strengthen its vector control programme through the implementation of its Integrated Vector Management Plan which was approved by Cabinet as well as a number of technical assessments and training facilitated by regional and international partners including PAHO (Pan American Health Organization), CARPHA and PHE (Public Health England).
In addition, clean up campaigns are ongoing throughout the country in order to maintain the cleanliness of the environment thereby reducing and eliminating mosquito breeding sites. Health promotion activities are ongoing to educate the general public about measures they can take to reduce mosquito breeding as well as avoid mosquito bites through various forms of media.
The Ministry of Health continues to take a proactive multifaceted approach in addressing mosquito-borne diseases including Zika in order to protect the health of residents and visitors to the TCI.
For additional information, please contact the Ministry of Health on 338-3055.