WHO regional head raises Zika alarm


By Dilanthi Jayamanne

WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh yesterday urged all countries in the region to increase surveillance for vector born diseases such as Zika.

Addressing the media, following the inauguration ceremony of the ‘69th session of the WHO Regional Committee for South East Asia at the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre, Dr Singh said that the vector Aedes mosquitoes were already present in the region, preventive measures should be taken to prevent the virus from entering the country. Singapore had recorded more than 100 zika cases followed by Indonesia (90) and five pregnant mothers were affected by the virus in Thailand.

She advised all pregnant mothers to be vigilant.

Not only the Health authorities but the environment Ministries of the region, too, had a crucial role to play in keeping a clean and mosquito free environment. Vector control and the elimination of breeding grounds was the way to keep the Zika virus in check, she said.

The WHO Regional Director said that Sri Lanka would be awarded the certification for eradicating malaria today (06).

Highlighting some of the issues that would be under discussions at the Ministerial Round Tables, Dr Singh said they included the careless use of antibiotics resulting in microbial resistance, mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS, neglected tropical diseases, emergency preparedness, access to medicines and a quality health force and, Non communicable Diseases (NCDs). She said that Sri Lanka would submit a Declaration on NCD, focussing on its Prevention.

Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the government would not depend on the revenue it received from alcohol and tobacco in the future. The two brought in a revenue of approximately Rs. 100 billion. However, the government spent Rs. 72 billion treating diseases resulting from tobacco and alcohol use. It also spent a colossal Rs. 147 billion on treating NCDs, the Health Minister said.

The Minister said that he would strive to increase taxes on beverages which contained more than five spoons of sugar. Each cola bottle contained 35 grams of sugar while the amount of sugar a child should consume per day was only nine grams.

He pledged to take steps to introduce the colour coding system (traffic light system) for salt and fat contents as well.

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