“Did it come as a surprise when you learned that Donald Trump trumped Hillary Clinton to win the United States presidential election? It didn’t to us—and we have Zika to prove it.
“The World Health Organization recently announced that the spread of Zika virus, along with related clusters of microcephaly and neurological disorders, is no longer a ‘public health emergency of international concern.’ So ends nearly a year of worry since WHO made that global headline-grabbing declaration. Or does it?
“Given that Zika has spread to more than 50 countries, it would appear to come as good news that WHO ‘downgraded’ the status of virus from a public health emergency. It would also appear that the ringing of bells by health professionals, including those who went so far as to suggest postponing or moving the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, was unnecessarily alarmist. Scanning the headlines and what is trending on social media, it would simply appear that all of those worries about people getting infected by virus-carrying mosquitoes weren’t worth all of the fuss.
“If only that were the case.
“In reality, there is a huge misunderstanding about the spread of Zika and the WHO view of it. To see that, though, requires reading beyond the headlines and the crazed hashtags.”
“The WHO announcement does not have much to recommend about the threat of Zika being over and done with. What the announcement says is that the spread of Zika is still a public health problem. But, because the virus is now endemic in several geographical locations and because emergency funding is set to run out after a period of six to 12 months, WHO needs to pivot to allocate funds from other sources to address the long-term impact of the virus across the globe.”
“The World Health Organization on Friday declared that Zika no longer constitutes an international emergency, but it stressed a need for a long-term effort to address the virus, which has been linked to birth defects and neurological complications.
“Officials on WHO’s Emergency Committee made clear the Zika still constitutes a global public health threat. They warned the virus, which has been found in 60 countries since the outbreak was identified last year in Brazil, will continue to spread where mosquitoes that carry the virus are present.
“Removing the international emergency designation will put Zika in a class with other diseases, such as dengue, that pose serious risks and require continued research, including efforts to develop effective vaccines.
But some public health experts worried that losing the “international emergency” label could slow research into the virus, which continues to cause infections in the United States and elsewhere.
“WHO in February declared Zika a public health emergency of international concern—a designation under international law that compels countries to report outbreaks. The move was part of an effort to determine if Zika was linked to reports in Brazil of the severe birth defect microcephaly and the neurological disorder Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Traditionally, Zika had only been thought to cause mild symptoms.
“That goal has been met, said Dr David Heymann, chair of the Zika Emergency Committee and a professor of infectious disease at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in a conference call with reporters following the committee meeting in Geneva.
“Because research has now shown that Zika and microcephaly are linked, “the committee felt that what is best now is a very robust technical response to the virus, and that would require work within WHO,” he said.
“The U.N. health agency maintained recommendations including that people exposed to the Zika virus should take preventive measures for six months to avoid sexual transmission.
“’It remains crucially important that pregnant women avoid traveling to areas with local transmission of Zika, because of the devastating complications that can occur in fetuses that become infected during pregnancy,’ the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said in a statement.
“Zika infections are expected to continue rising in the Asia-Pacific region, where authorities are increasing surveillance, preparing responses to complications and collaborating on information about the disease, the World Health Organization said Monday.
“Complicating the fight against the virus, spread by mosquitoes, is the lack of a ‘foolproof’ approach to mosquito control, as shown by decades of efforts to contain dengue virus, WHO Director General Margaret Chan said in her address to a Western Pacific regional meeting of the world health body.
“She said other questions included why the first signs of the virus’s existence in the Asia-Pacific region came from travelers whose infections were confirmed once they returned home.
“’Is this weak surveillance an indication of population-wide immunity, or proof that the virus has somehow acquired greater epidemic potential?’ she asked.
“Zika symptoms are mild and no deaths have been reported globally, said Dr. Li Ailan, director for health security and emergencies at WHO’s Western Pacific regional office. But she said based on WHO’s risk assessment, Zika viral infection will continue to spread in the region and authorities are preparing for complications.
“The complications include like microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Babies born to Zika-infected mothers have been found to have microcephaly, or a birth defect where the head is abnormally small and brains might not have developed properly. Guillain-Barre syndrome is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.
“The Western Pacific region is the second most Zika-affected region in the world, Li said. Nineteen of its 27 countries have reported Zika cases since 2007 and 13 of them this year.
“Dr. Shin Young-soo, WHO’s Western Pacific regional head, said they are working very hard to increase surveillance and detection of Zika, and long-term response to the disease are among the topics to be discussed at the five-day conference.”
Source: NBC News
Mosquito Squad has been a proud supporter of Malaria No More for years. Their goal sounds simple: end malaria deaths, but much goes into it. Hundreds of thousands of people, primarily children, die from malaria each year.
But, there’s good news.
Yesterday, the World Health Organization published its 2014 World Malaria Report and report that there has been a 58% decline in the number of child deaths from malaria in Africa!
We can see the dedication working! More and more women and children have access to bed nets and treatment than ever before. But, the work isn’t done yet. There were still over 400,000 children that died of malaria last year in Africa.
Malaria No More and Mosquito Squad are committed to the fight against malaria not just in Africa, but worldwide. This holiday season, please donate to the cause at SwatMalaria.net.
As educational and medical help continues, here are some of the new innovations Malaria No More is supporting:
- A malaria test that can detect malaria even if the patient isn’t displaying symptoms,
- Better medication that can fight the disease more quickly, hopefully with just one pill,
- More and better technology to help African clinics manage test and treatment stocks and predict outbreaks,
- And vaccines that prevent humans from contracting malaria when bitten by an infected mosquito.
Ending malaria deaths may seem like a lofty goal, but it is entirely possible to see a world without malaria deals in our lifetime. It is both preventable and treatable. Experts were able to attack malaria and eradicate it from the United States in just a few years back in the 1940s and 50s. The Center for Disease Control was actually first created to address the growing issue of malaria in the US and now, we don’t worry about it here.
If you want to join in the fight and be part of the legacy of ending malaria deaths, please donate now to SwatMalaria.net.