Health minister on WHO global emergency
The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday declared Zika a global public health emergency.

However, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said he was not in panic mode as a result of the global declaration since he held his emergency meeting regarding Zika on December 29, last year.

On Friday, Deyalsingh declared a national public health emergency.

“I have already met with all the heads of all 14 regional corporations to discuss clean-up campaigns so I have been in a robust mode responding, leaving nothing to chance,” Deyalsingh told the T&T Guardian yesterday, when contacted shortly after WHO's announcement.

Today, a trial plan will commence in the Bagatelle, Diego Martin, area, which will be sprayed for the Aedes aegypti mosquito which transmits the virus.

However, on the heels of the global declaration made by WHO, local litter wardens, about 100 of them, whose contracts ended on January 28, are pleading with the Government to reconsider having their respective contracts renewed. Initially, 150 litter wardens were hired.

One litter warden from East Trinidad, who asked not to be identified, and who has been employed in the unit since its inception three years ago, reiterated the critical role they played in keeping the environment clean.

“We have been out there on the fields faithfully and religiously keeping a hawk's eye out for people who litter and for those who keep their premises unsanitary as a haven for the breeding of mosquitoes. We always had the authority to serve notice and take people to court where they can be fined a maximum of $5,000 for littering and for unkept premises from $500 up according to the discretion of the magistrate,” the litter warden said.

“I am not ashamed to say that this is utter nonsense to have us going home at this time given the national public health emergency and now the declaration of a global public health emergency. This is all the more reason to have our contracts renewed. All hands are needed on deck more than ever now. We do not want Zika reaching our shores here, having it already hit Jamaica, which is close to home. It is unfair to send us home since we play a critical role in source reduction,” she added.

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The WHO, according to a BBC report, has already warned that Zika is likely to “spread explosively” across nearly all of the Americas.

More than 20 countries, including Brazil, are reporting cases, with about 4,000 reported cases of microcephaly—babies born with small heads and brains—in Brazil alone since October 2015.

Most infections are mild and cause few or no symptoms, although there have been some reported cases of a rare paralysis disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome.

The bigger health threat though is believed to be in pregnancy, to the unborn child.

The WHO alert puts Zika in the same category of international concern as Ebola.

It means research and aid will be fast-tracked to tackle the infection.

According to WHO, currently, there is no vaccine or medication to stop Zika. The only way to avoid catching it, WHO said, was to avoid getting bitten by the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that transmit the infection.