Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe said recent outbreaks of the mosquito-borne Zika virus haven’t posed a threat to tourism in The Bahamas.
With the Zika virus quickly spreading though the Americas and the recent confirmation of several cases in neighboring countries including Haiti, Jamaica and the U.S. (Florida) he said so far, the local tourism sector has not seen a decline in visitors.
“One or two pregnant women were told not to travel in the region at his time because of what is happening,” he said.
“Some people are being more cautious and we understand that. But generally, we haven’t seen a decline in our bookings and the season looks good as it stands. I think the world needs to know what we are doing. They need to feel comfortable to come to The Bahamas. They need to know every effort is being made. Hotel properties are being inspected and the Ministry of Environment will be fogging to rid itself of mosquitoes.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Health Dr. Perry Gomez said the key to the prevention of an outbreak of the Zika virus in The Bahamas is in the eradication of mosquitoes.
With the Zika virus rapidly spreading, the health minister said the solution to not having a major epidemic is eliminating mosquitoes and their breeding areas.
“The key thing is whether it’s imported or originated in our country, the important thing is to have the solution to the problem because if we can kill the mosquito there is nothing to transmit it,” he said.
“Our emphasis must be on eradicating the mosquito and that is by cleaning up our respective places and fogging by the government and other initiatives. We want to stop the mosquito from breeding and that’s why it is essential that we tackle our environment. Any stagnant water will be a haven for a breeding mosquito. So if we can fix that it would not matter if a case comes in because there will be nothing to transmit it.”
Dr. Gomez announced last week that the government had been closely monitoring citizens for early detection of the virus for the last three months.
He said the response to the Zika virus has to be better than the response to the dengue fever outbreak.
While officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) have warned citizens to refrain from traveling and from becoming pregnant the minister said the government is not sending that message to the Bahamian people.
“We have made no such declaration,” he said.
“It is not being considered at this time.”
The virus is caused by the same aedes aegypti mosquito behind both the dengue fever and Chikungunya.
While transmission is possible from a mother to a new-born, experts are also studying the possibility of contracting the virus through sexual transmission, blood transfusion and laboratory exposure.
There’s no specific treatment for the infection and aspirin should be avoided.
Scientists warn that a vaccine may not be available to the public for another decade.