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October 21, 2014
Lessons learned from chikungunya should help region

Grenada’s health minister Dr Clarise Modeste says that the region has learned fast from the chikungunya epidemic that has swept through the area, but still has a good way to go when it comes to containing the mosquito borne virus.

Modeste told reporters last week at the NIS conference room, at the end of the Council {{more}}of OECS Health Ministers meeting, that a significant amount of progress was made in the control of chikungunya, in spite of the region being what she referred to as “virgin territory” for the disease.

“We have all agreed that we have done quite a lot, but there is room for more, especially when we consider the lingering of the joint pains and the lasting effect of the disease. We all agonize over it and we have decided that there is more to be done.

“As a matter of fact, discussions on that topic lasted quite a while as to what more could be done, and therefore we have mandated the OECS Commission to give us some more guidance and we will collectively look at what more we can do to stem the tide, so we can bring some measure of physical and psychological relief to our people.”

The minister said that the lessons learned from dealing with chikungunya virus, could help the region’s medical officials prepare for and fight the looming threat of the ebola virus.

A release from the OECS Commission on Monday said “recognizing and empathizing with the many citizens and families in the OECS that are affected by Chikungunya, the negative publicity that has been generated by the Chikungunya outbreak, the decline in productivity and the anticipated long-term suffering, the Council of Ministers agreed to adopt an OECS coordinated/harmonized approach to the management of the Chikungunya epidemic. Further, the Council endorsed an integrated approach involving community empowerment and a strengthened health sector response.

“The Council has identified the need now to re-engineer vector control programs giving high priority to entomological surveillance, resistance testing, facilitation of access to goods and services including medicated mosquito nets and repellents, through regional pooled procurement.”

The Council also expressed interest in having a pilot project undertaken in the use of genetic forms of vector control to be independently evaluated by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

The OECS Commission was mandated to work in collaboration with CARPHA to (i) strengthen communication and education for community mobilization and (ii) improve care and treatment especially in anticipation of the long-term arthralgia and depression, (iii) conduct research and evaluate new technologies and identify good practices, and to develop a communication strategy to counter the negative publicity.

Countries were also advised to give attention to key ‘economic’ settings, including health facilities, hotels and guest houses, ports of entry, as well as schools and workplaces.