Mayo Clinic’s Program in Underserved Global Health, led by John W. Wilson, M.D., outlined a four-tiered project to reduce mosquito-borne infectious disease, expand the diagnostic capacity of vector-borne infections and increase public health education and awareness of these infections.
There is a substantial and urgent need for a comprehensive, multi-tiered approach toward controlling and reducing the impact of Zika virus.
Therefore, the team initially intends to focus on Zika virus in Belize, a public health emergency of international concern. Our hope is to give local communities complete autonomy so they can more readily diagnose and manage these infections in country. We also seek to empower the Ministry of Health in Belize with epidemiology tracing tools so they can more accurately monitor the prevalence of these infections. We will provide the Ministry of Health with educational tools enabling them to relay more effective and enduring messages to the general public on preventative measures and certain treatment methods. Lastly, this project will serve as a proof of concept for implementation in other neighboring Latin American countries.
As our initial focus, we will explore the epidemiological and entomological surveillance of Zika virus. Zika is spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes, and is linked to severe birth defects and neurological disorders. Unfortunately, for most resource-limited countries, like Belize, human and mosquito samples have to be screened outside the country. This capacity limitation contributes to delays in implementing control strategies and increases the risk of exposure to community members. Active surveillance of Zika virus will serve as a key component to improving the quality of life in these communities.
Understanding the prevalence of these Zika and other viruses is necessary to ensure appropriate treatment and preventative strategies that will minimize public exposure. Many of these types of infections can be life-threatening and have significant impact on affected communities. International air travel enables these infections to become readily exportable to neighboring countries and into the United States. For these reasons, there is an urgent need to ma the prevalence of vector-borne viral, bacterial and parasitic infections, improve the diagnostic capacity of in-country laboratories, and expand public health education to reduce the exposure to these pathogens.
Mayo Clinic’s Program in Underserved Global Health is focused on initiatives that are sustainable and involve community health empowerment, enabling local health providers and communities more autonomy and further self-reliance. Education — to health providers, patients and families — and research initiatives focused on local communities have the best potential for meaningful impact. Our three-tiered approach integrating health professional training, epidemiological and entomological surveillance and public health awareness and education will ensure rapid advancement toward reducing the health burden caused by Zika in Belize. This will simultaneously establish a foundation for sustained community health benefits for other diseases, including dengue and Chikungunya virus, in neighboring countries.