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News from the Turks and Caicos Islands:

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TCI currently zika-free
Published on February 8, 2016 Email To Friend    Print Version

The Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits the zika as well as dengue and chikungunya viruses

While the number of zika virus cases continues to increases in the Caribbean and Latin America region and more countries are becoming affected, the ministry of health, agriculture and human services has confirmed that the TCI is currently zika free.

Premier and minister of health, agriculture and human services, Dr Rufus Ewing, said that the Cabinet has approved emergency funds in the sum of $327,433 to procure additional resources, chemicals and step-up manpower in the fight to ensure that TCI remain zika-free.

The funding will be used to purchase mosquito nets for vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and the elderly. In addition, the government also intend to bulk purchase mosquito repellents that will be distributed to the vulnerable groups’ households throughout the islands.

The department of environmental health will also be purchasing additional fogging machines and several hand-held industrial fogging machines that will permit more effective fogging operations throughout the islands, particularly within communities and areas that are not easily accessible with vehicles.

Cabinet also granted approval for a reduction in the tariff for the purchasing of hand-held fogging machines, as such the public and the commercial establishments on island are encouraged to import such machine, and individuals are also encouraged to purchase these items and, as frequently as necessary, to engage in fogging of their premises.

However, the government recognizes that fogging alone will not be the solution. Part of the solution is to prevent the adult mosquito from finding suitable areas with settled water to lay their eggs. In an effort to address this, the government in collaboration with the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association (TCHTA) and other civic groups will be conducting a national clean-up campaign. Communities and residents are encouraged to clean their backyards, place the trash in front of their property and arrangements will be made to remove the trash.

All persons, community groups, church groups, schools, adults young and old are encouraged to come out and be part of the nationwide clean up exercise in an effort to ensure that the TCI remains zika-free. This is a matter of national urgency.

Speaking on the zika threat was TCHTA's executive director Stacy Cox, who noted, "Last week we attended a webinar with CHTA, CTO and our Caribbean counterparts where information on the virus and preventative measures were disseminated. We will be in constant communication with CHTA and will share any pertinent information with our local stakeholders including health protocols in dealing with mosquito-borne viral diseases found in our region."

Cox added, "One takeaway from the meeting was the importance of educating our residents about ways to control the mosquito population. TCHTA as the largest tourism and hospitality body in the nation will therefore be increasing our public awareness and training among our employees and will be taking proactive measures to combat zika, dengue and chikungunya."

The ministry further advises that protecting yourself from mosquito bites will help you to stay safe from contracting dengue, chikungunya and zika and if travel is essential to areas experiencing these diseases, especially for pregnant women, remember to exercise extreme caution to avoid mosquito bites.

To Protect Yourself from Mosquito Bites

• Apply insect repellents on exposed skin liberally

• When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants

• Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside

• If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito net

Help reduce the number of mosquitoes inside and outside your home by:

• Checking around buildings for anything that could hold water, inspect your home and yard weekly

• Turn containers over or cover them

• Get rid of or cover old tires

• Properly dispose of all garbage/refuse

• Cover boats, children’s pools, water drums and rain barrels etc.

• Clean rain gutters and make sure they are flowing properly

• Check screens for holes

• Empty standing water from containers such as flower pots or buckets
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