Cuba intensifies fight to fend off Zika virus

Updated: 2016-02-29 11:18


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HAVANA - The Cuban government on Sunday announced fresh measures to keep the Zika virus out of its borders.

In an address to the nation, Cuban President Raul Castro called on "all Cubans to take on this fight as a personal challenge" by eliminating environments which could help mosquito proliferation.

"The army has deployed over 9,000 soldiers, ... with the additional help of 200 police officers," said Castro, adding that the government has tasked the Ministry of Public Health with leading an action against Zika, dengue and chikungunya.

As part of this campaign, Cuba has created a ministry-level management center, which works around the clock to monitor information linked to these diseases across the country and beyond.

Public Health Minister Roberto Morales said this week that while no case of Zika has been found in Cuba, "the risk of introduction of Zika into the country is high."

He attributed the high probability to "our international exchanges, the high levels of infestation of the mosquito in 55 municipalities, including the capital, and the high vulnerability of our population to such diseases."

All around Havana, brigades of soldiers can be seen going from house to house, fumigating along their way, while doctors and nurses attach special attention to any potential symptoms in the population, especially among pregnant women.

The battle has focused on a cleaning campaign, including the pruning of trees across the city. A document listing preventive measures for families has also been released.