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Two CARICOM agencies to convene regional symposium on dengue and chikungunya virus
Published on April 8, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Monday was World Health Day, the theme of which is "small bites, big threats: protect yourself and your environment from vector-borne diseases". With this in mind, the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) have announced their convening of a one-day symposium, focusing on dengue fever and chikungunya virus to be held on June 12 in Trinidad and Tobago.

The symposium is designed for clinicians, researchers and network engineers to share experiences tackling and managing dengue fever and the chikungunya virus in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Importantly, the practitioners will learn how the dedicated, high bandwidth research and education (R&E) networks in the region -- C@ribNET and RedCLARA -- can support and facilitate the collaborative work among the various health-related communities and health-related researchers.

The primary outcome of the Caribbean symposium is to initiate the establishment of a medical/health related community with a focus on dengue fever and chikungunya and which uses the R&E networks available in the Caribbean and Latin America and their global connections.

The symposium demonstrates synergies and functional cooperation, one of the core values the CARICOM. It provides an ideal opportunity for healthcare professionals as well as network engineers to meet and discuss not only the current status of the infections in the region, but to also explore how using R&E networks can support greater collaborative work and research in addressing this health issue that affects Caribbean citizenry.

The incidence of dengue has grown dramatically around the world in recent decades. Over 2.5 billion people -- more than 40% of the world's population -- are now at risk from dengue. Not only is the number of cases increasing, but explosive outbreaks are also occurring as the disease spreads to new areas.

According to Dr Karen Polson-Edwards, senior technical officer, vector borne diseases and neglected tropical diseases at CARPHA, the symposium is extremely timely as dengue and chikungunya are of concern for the entire Caribbean basin and many coastal and interior countries in South America.

"We need to come together to discuss and share what each other is doing, what is being done in other regions and to explore how we can collaborate to be even more effective in combatting these diseases in endemic countries and to prevent its spread," she said.

Polson-Edwards also noted that the research and education networks around the world continuously facilitate this kind of collaboration, and it seemed logical for regional agencies to take advantage of the network (C@ribNET) with high-definition images and stable connections, as a time- and cost-effective collaboration tool for greater sharing, teaching, learning and research.

Ken Sylvester, CEO of CKLN, said he was pleased that this health-related community was coming together in the Caribbean, as it follows the lead of the Trans EurAsia Information Network (TEIN) Cooperation Center, which jointly organized a dedicated dengue fever workshop at the Asia Pacific Advanced Networking (APAN) in Bandung, Indonesia in January. Sister network, TEIN*CC (managers of the Asia-Pacific network, TEIN) are working closely with CKLN on this Caribbean-focused symposium on dengue fever.

The Bandung meeting highlighted the need to collaborate internationally as dengue is becoming more and more a global disease. A Japanese delegate noted that they have no experience in dealing with dengue fever, but with global travelling, they now have cases and therefore need to learn from others.

With the support of the Trinidad and Tobago research and education network, TTRENT, the face-to-face participation at Caribbean symposium will take place at the University of the West Indies Open Campus in Port of Spain, Trinidad, with virtual participation from individuals in the region and elsewhere unable to attend in person. They will join by videoconference, using research and education networks such as C@ribNET, RedCLARA, Internet 2, GÉANT and TEIN.
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