Cuba Calls Out the Troops to Fight Zika

A virus travel alert exists for much of the Americas. Cuba is preparing its prevention campaign even before the virus arrives to the island. Map:

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba will mobilize more than 9,000 troops of its armed forces to combat the Zika virus, announced President Raul Castro on Monday.

The campaign to fight the mosquito that carries the virus was announced by Castro in the official newspaper “Granma” and provides for additional mobilization of reserve officers and 200 officers of the National Police. To date Cuba has not reported cases of Zika but its arrival is considered all but inevitable.

“The leadership of the (Communist) Party and government adopted an action plan under the Ministry of Public Health to combat the Zika virus and at the time dengue and chikungunya,” which are spread by the same Aedes Aegypti mosquito, said the president in his “Appeal to our people.”

The measures to be taken include intensified fumigation door to door campaigns throughout the island, which the Cuban authorities and periodically perform mainly to prevent dengue.

“It is urgently needed to undertake an intensive sanitation in the workplace, in residential areas and within homes”, said Castro, calling on Cubans to take “this fight as a personal matter.”

Dengue is endemic in Cuba because its tropical climate provides favorable conditions for the spread of the carrier mosquitoes. The island has also recorded some cases of chikungunya, a disease transmitted by the same mosquito.

The current outbreak of Zika has reached 36 countries, most of them in the Americas. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that the virus will reach virtually every country in the region and recently declared a health emergency worldwide.

Although Zika only has light symptoms such as mild fever, it is considered dangerous because of its possible connection with cases of microcephaly in newborns. Medical suspicions suggest that the virus could harm the fetus in the case of infection with Zika in pregnant women.

The outbreak came a few months ago in Brazil, where there are thousands of reported cases. Colombia is the second most affected country in the region. Only Brazil, however, has so far reported an alarming increase in cases of microcephaly in newborns.

WHO estimates that the studies will need about six months to accurately determine the relationship between Zika and microcephaly.

Zika contagion occurs through mosquito bites, although there have been few cases of sexual transmission.

Castro reiterated today that Cuba has so far not detected any cases of Zika and that “all non-specific febrile syndromes are being analyzed for early identification of his presence.”

The president further noted that the country is ready to provide patients with quality medical attention if the virus is identified.