World Bank gives $100 M to fight zika fever outbreak But virus could cost us billions

By Benjamin Flowers,
Staff Reporter

The World Bank has pledged more than $100 million to support the fight against the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease that now threatens all of south and Central and North America. A bite from the Ades Egypti mosquito can bring on the Zica fever, which retards the growth of the brain in unborn babies.

Last week the bank issued its initial projections on the short term impacts of the Zika virus . It said that the region could sustain as much as a $3.5 billion loss because it’s heavy reliance on tourism. The $3.5 billion was projected under the assumption that there will be a “swift, well-coordinated regional response” to contain the virus. Failure to respond quickly could cost the region more.

Countries highly dependent on tourism—Belize for example and the islands of the Caribbean—could suffer losses in excess of one percent of their GDP and may require additional support from the international community to offset the impact of the Zica virus,” the World Bank said.

This money from the World Bank will support a range of activities including: vector surveillance and control; identification of those people most at-risk, especially pregnant women and women of reproductive age; follow-up and care through pregnancy and after birth, public awareness, self-protection and other measures that will ensure a robust, well-targeted, and well-coordinated response.

“Our analysis underscores the importance of urgent action to halt the spread of the Zika virus and to protect the health and well-being of people in the affected countries,” Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, said this week.: “The World Bank Group stands ready to support the countries affected by this health crisis and to provide additional support if needed.”

In Belize Caricom Chairman , Prime minister Dean Barrow, explained that the community’s response would include: a continuous public education campaign on the nature of Zika and the public’s role in the response; implementing safety measures at ports of entry, health facilities, schools, private enterprises (such as hotels and tourism facilities), factories and other businesses.

The Prime Minister added that governments are being asked to reduce import tax on essential public health supplies such as insecticide-treated bed nets and insect repellent for the duration of the epidemic in the region, which they estimated would be approximately two years. CARICOM also announced that the second week of May would be designated as ‘Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week’.

The Aedes Egypti mosquito has emerged as Public Enemy No. 1. It is the mosquito with the white bands on its legs. The female mosquito can spread dengue, yellow fever and Zika virus by simply biting a person.

The most effective way to fight the mosquito plague is by destroying its habitat, any cool place where there is stagnant water. This is a special challenge for Belize however because there are so many drains and culverts with stagnant water.

The Government of Belize response to the upsurge of Aides Egypti mosquitoes has been to step up its mechanized fogging program using malathion to kill off the mosquito at the times when it is most active – at dawn and in the evenings. But it may have to do more. In the past spraying open drains with kerosene has proved helpful in killing off the mosquito larvae (wiggle-waggle).

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