The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has announced that the World Health Organization (WHO) has removed its Zika virus country classification scheme, which categorised most of the Caribbean territories as having active Zika virus transmission.
This removal by the WHO comes on the heels of data released by 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 travellers returning from the Caribbean to their countries.
This evidence was used by Caricom open 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.
Executive Director, CARPHA, Dr. James Hospedales explained that 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 (IHR).
This adverse impact was confirmed by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), who made a formal request to CARPHA for the Agency’s intervention.