The Turks and Caicos was removed from the CDC’s Level 3 advisory in April 2019, and the last reported case was in January 2017.
Zika, or more accurately the Zika virus, is a virus spread via mosquito bites. This disease has been shown to cause severe birth defects in pregnant women. For other persons, this virus typically causes no or mild symptoms (similar to a mild case of dengue fever).
Pregnant women, and those planning to become pregnant, should not travel to areas where there is Zika transmission. There is no vaccine for the Zika virus.
A Caicos Sloop in the waters off Blue Hills, Providenciales.
History of the Outbreak
The Zika outbreak which affected the Turks and Caicos started in 2015 in Brazil, which spread through South America and Central American and led to a general Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, a United States government organization) warning in January 2016. By mid-2016, cases were being identified in the Turks and Caicos, and the CDC issued an advisory advising against non-essential travel for pregnant persons or those who may become pregnant.
By September 2016, the number of cases reached 11.
Removal from Travel Advisory
The last confirmed case in the Turks and Caicos was in January 2017, and by October of 2018 the TCI was still on the CDC’s travel advisory.
Role of CARPHA
The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) was established legally in July 2011. Its operations started in 2013, and is headquartered in Trinidad and Tobago.
CARPHA merged 5 existing, separate agencies dealing with environmental health, infectious diseases, and nutritional issues.
It was only two years after CARPHA was functional that it took lead on the Zika outbreak and transmission throughout countries in the region.
During the outbreak, the Government considered using genetically modified mosquitos in an effort to curb transmission and infection. This was done in the Cayman Islands. However, this never progressed past the initial suggestion phase in the Turks and Caicos.
Mosquitos can be an annoyance at times in the Turks and Caicos, especially after heavy rainfall and little rainfall. Of the major islands, North and Middle Caicos usually experience the worst mosquitos, followed by Pine Cay and Providenciales. Grand Turk and Salt Cay, due to the dryer environment and small size of the islands, experience the pests to a lesser degree.
Precautions against mosquitos, when present, are the usual long-sleeve shirts and bug spray.
Government Mosquito Control
The Government conducts mosquito control on all inhabited islands with varying degrees of success. In concert with fogging by trucks (using Malathion), an educational campaign and program to reduce mosquito breeding sites is also done. Trash, which unfortunately plagues some settlements on the islands, often breed mosquitos, as empty bottles, plastic food trays, and used car tires retain water which cultivates mosquito larvae.
The Government’s refusal to enforce anti-littering laws, including large scale illegal dumping, contributes to the mosquito problem in the islands.