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How Prepared for Zika are Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean?

Zika virus disease is caused by the Zika virus, which is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Zika doesn’t usually lead to hospitalizations, and few people die of it. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. Researchers also are trying to understand if there is a connection between Zika and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

The Zika virus – first documented in Uganda in 1947 – has had periodic outbreaks, but did not spread globally until February 2016, when the virus had spread to enough of Brazil and other countries to be declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by the World Health Organization.

How prepared are governments in Latin America and the Caribbean to monitor and control the mosquitoes which spread the Zika virus?

While the answer to that question is not clear yet, one is on the way. USAID has asked the Health Finance and Governance Project, led by Abt Global, to conduct rapid assessments of Aedes vector control and entomological monitoring capacity in up to five Latin American countries. The Abt-led PMI AIRS project has carried out similar work for malaria.

“Conducting these country assessments for USAID allows us at Abt to use our extensive experience assessing entomological monitoring and malaria vector control capacity in Africa and apply it to Zika vectors in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Bob Fryatt, HFG director and principal associate at Abt. “We needed to move quickly given the urgent high profile nature of the problem in the region.”

Fryatt said the assessments will identify a range of systems strengthening interventions for each country’s government and donors for which Abt has capabilities we’ve honed from other work. Applying these to the emerging Zika situation is a natural transition for us. The assessments involve, among other tasks, recruiting senior bilingual entomologists and coordinating with local officials and the USAID mission on visits to each country.

Abt expects to finish the assessments by July 2016.

Read more about Abt and Zika: Mobilizing Against Zika

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