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WHO Removes Zika Virus Classification From Caribbean, Says ‘Little Risk’ Here Now

BRIDGETOWN – The World Health Organization (WHO) has removed its Zika virus country classification scheme from countries in the region.

The scheme had categorized most of the Caribbean territories as having active Zika virus transmission.

This removal of the mosquito borne virus by the WHO comes on the heels of data released by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), giving evidence 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,” CARPHA noted in a statement.

This evidence was used by the Caribbean Community 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.

According to CARPHA’s Executive Director Dr. C. James Hospedales, 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. “This adverse impact was confirmed by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), who made a formal request to CARPHA for the agency’s intervention,” he said.

“The Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world. It is also one of the most popular honeymoon destinations worldwide and ongoing cancellations 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,” Hospedales added.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 50 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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