Zika Virus Explodes Into an Alarming Reason for Concern

On Monday, January 29, the World Health Organization  issued an alert declaring the Zika virus a global health emergency. The WHO director general, Margaret Chan reports the spread of the virus to be “explosive” but that although ”circumstantial evidence is strong but it has not been established that the Zika virus provokes microcephaly in fetus."

Nonetheless, infant wards in Brazil are filled with distraught mothers who rush into the there hoping that their children’s condition will somehow go away.  Despite the lack of certainty, evidence suggests a strong relation between the virus and the malformation of the fetus head, which results in an abnormally small brain.  In thewords of an official for Brazil’s Health Ministry,  “There is no doubt that Brazil is experiencing a significant increase in microcephaly.”The mosquito appears to have found a perfect habitat because the survival of the mosquito is driven greatly by temperature.  Mosquitoes thrive in warm and moist environments, which would help explain why it is practically everywhere in the South American continent. 

Global health officials arescrambling to understand what the connection between the virus is, if any. So, women across Latin America are told to delay pregnancy. In Brazil, where the outbreak has hit record highs, with more than one million people infected.  In Colombia, where the second highest number of incidents is recorded, health ministries are advising women to delay pregnancies up to six or eight months.  

The Pan American Health Organization/ World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) has updated the recommendations on surveillance of Zika virus. Some of the recommendations provide that the surveillance for neurological syndromes and congenital malformations be included, and also provides recommendations for the follow-ups of pregnant women and newborns in areas where Zika virus is circulating. The prevention and control measures suggested aiming at reducing the vector density of the virus. Consequently, PAHO/WHO – and because so little is known about Zika -- suggests an intensification of the Integrated Management Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Dengue (IMS- Dengue).

Globalization and climate change may help spread the virus with more people traveling and bringing diseases to new locales. Also, more and more people live in crowded cities, where it is easy for mosquitoes to find large concentrations of vulnerable humans.  With all of the unknown facts, one scary certainty has us all in alert: the virus sure is spreading fast.

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