MONTEVIDEO – The health ministers of 14 Latin American countries agreed on Wednesday on a roadmap to fight the Zika virus, linked in Brazil to a dramatic increase of birth defects.
After meeting all day in the Uruguayan capital, the ministers approved a 16-point declaration to fight the region’s “serious epidemiological situation” due to the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which – besides Zika – also carries dengue fever and Chikungunya.
The declaration coordinates action in education campaigns preparing the public for dealing with the problem, preventing and controlling the disease, as well as creating awareness and reciprocal support capabilities for diagnosing Zika cases.
At the same time, the final document establishes region-wide clinical protocols and directives for treating the mosquito-borne diseases, providing attention to newborns, soliciting international cooperation and greater resources and acquiring expensive medications.
Uruguayan Health Minister Jorge Basso at a press conference emphasized the results obtained to date in dealing with the epidemic which “has no vaccines or treatments.”
“There are no magical measures, no simple answers and ... communication is ... key ... for achieving public involvement and also strongly involving academic structures and researchers, because there are many questions to answer,” he said.
He said “the challenge” is to resolve the questions where scientific evidence is not yet definitive, remarking on the World Health Organization’s commitment to determine the relationship between Zika and microcephaly, which entails a baby’s being born with an abnormally small skull.
Although the WHO has not established a direct link between microcephaly and neurological disorders with Zika, Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Castro said Wednesday that scientific studies there have established an “unquestionable” causal connection.
Participating in the meeting were health ministers from Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, Paraguay, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Suriname, Peru, Chile and Ecuador.