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Health ministry spending $5m to fight Zika

Published: 
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh shows graphs with chikungunya and dengue cluster cases in Trinidad during a press conference yesterday. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR

The Health Ministry is pumping $5 million into its fight against the Zika virus.

The funds would be used to purchase additional chemicals for spraying, said Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh during a press conference at the ministry’s office in Park Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

On whether there were cuts from other areas within the ministry to fund this purchase, Deyalsingh said that was irrelevant.

“The money will be made available to protect T&T,” Deyalsingh said.

Two weeks ago, Deyalsingh declared the virus a national public health emergency. Due to this declaration, the minister said the country was now in talks with its international partners for assistance.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had also declared the virus a global health emergency. Asked to provide some details of the aid, Deyalsingh said he could not as discussions were ongoing.

“T&T is now going to be a recipient of international funding to fight the virus,” Deyalsingh said.

And the fight would also entail a legislative level as there are proposals to increase the current $500 fine for unkept lots.

The minister said this had become necessary to ensure that negligent property owners kept their premises clean, including abandoned lots which continued to pose a major health hazard.

The increased penalty was still to be determined as the ministry was currently reviewing the yellow fever regulations, Deyalsingh said.

“But there is still one major disturbing factor which is there are properties which we do not have access to...either they are closed or people have gone to work so we cannot do any spraying,” Deyalsingh said.

He said the total number of houses inspected to date was 73,066.

Regarding major clusters showing where the Aedes aegypti mosquito was endemic, the minister, with the use of a map, said there was a concentration between Diego Martin and Trincity.

“There are also clusters around central Trinidad like Chaguanas, Couva, San Fernando, La Brea.

“There are also some clusters along the eastern seaboard like Coalmine, Sangre Grande and a little cluster in Mayaro,” Deyalsingh said.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the same vector which spreads dengue and chikungunya.

He said while spraying was necessary it could not be done indiscriminately but rather must be done in a strategic and targeted manner.

Regarding aerial spraying he said there was no need for this as the entire country was not affected. Further, Deyalsingh said, the bee population would be put at risk.

“The last time aerial spraying was done it killed out the bee population and a whole industry with it,” the minister added.

To date there have been no recorded cases of Zika in the country.

On newspaper reports of the shortage of the drug M­odecate used to treat mental health patients, the minister said a letter from the manufacturer showed there was a global shortage. He said there was an alternative available drug which was in use.