WHO Declares Zika Virus Public Health Emergency
The World Health Organization has announced that the rapid spread of the Zika virus in the Americas as well as several other parts of the world has become a global health emergency. The organization also declared that there is a possible link between the Zika virus which is spread by mosquitoes and the number of brain – damaged babies born in Brazil. An announcement such as this is expected to cause a strong reaction and funding that would help stop this outbreak.
The WHO arranged an emergency meeting to discuss the potential link between the Zika virus and a large number of babies born with abnormally small heads in Brazil. This birth defect is called microcephaly and isn’t the only one reported by Zika patients in this country. Several Brazilians infected by Zika virus have developed a rare autoimmune condition known as Guillain-Barré syndrome, which according to current information causes temporary paralysis. Dr. Lee Norman, chief medical officer at The University of Kansas Hospital says “It’s still a little bit early to know absolutely with scientific proof if it’s cause and effect. We’ve seen Guillain-Barré forever and it can come from many different viral illnesses, or a vaccine.”
Although WHO Director-General Margaret Chan explained that there is no definitive proof that the recent birth defects have occurred due to the Zika virus, she acknowledged that “the level of alarm is extremely high.”
WHO estimates there could be up to four million people affected by Zika in the Americas in the next year. At this point, the only cases reported in the U.S. have been tourists who have come back home from abroad. However, experts believe that it’s only a matter of time before this virus spreads here.
There is currently no vaccine for this illness, and although the U.S. is gathering forces to develop one, the process could take several years.
However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases didn’t sound too worried when he spoke to “CBS This Morning” and said
“”If Zika acts like the other types of viruses that are mosquito-borne that we’ve had experience with, like dengue and chikungunya, we will see mini-outbreaks like in Florida and in Texas that can be well controlled with mosquito vector control. Hopefully we will not see anything worse than that, but we have to be very vigilant,”
WHO officials say that it will take six to nine months of extensive research before the connection between Zika and the rise in the number of babies born with abnormally small heads in Brazil can be definitely proven or disproven.
Although nothing is yet certain, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant woman not to travel to areas where the Zika virus is spreading, and all those who are visiting those areas should protect themselves against mosquitoes.
Currently, as the CBS News reports, the countries and territories on the advisory list include:
Latin America (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela), the Caribbean (Barbados, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, St. Martin, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands), Cape Verde (off the coast of western Africa), and Samoa and American Samoa in the South Pacific.