Published On: Thu, Mar 31st, 2016

THE ZIKA MENACE

By Steve Danso – An emergency meeting of some of the world’s leading health experts is being planned in Geneva, Switzerland to determine whether the zika virus mostly existent in South and Central America poses an international health crisis, but scientists and doctors concerned with the outbreak already believe that the virus should garner international attention because it is an existential threat.
Jeremy Farrar, the head of the Wellcome Trust, an independent global charitable organization dedicated to improving health through science and research recently said that the outbreak presents a strong case of a public health emergency. “It not only crosses national borders but is affecting a whole region. We need to be prepared for this disease to start spreading and help countries across the world by preparing them for its arrival,” he warned.
According to the World Health Organization, as many as four million clinical cases of Zika could affect the Americas, a figure, which is seen by other health experts as underestimated. A professor of molecular virology at Nottingham University, Jonathan Ball said that the outbreak could be immense considering how the virus is being spread. According to him, the virus is unleashing its venom in an area where ‘its insect vector is widespread and the human population has never been exposed to in the past.’ Professor Ball lamented that since people affected don’t have any immunity, the tendency of mosquitoes passing the virus from person to person unhindered could be devastating.
The global outcry of the virus seems to be focused on the suspected link to microcephaly, a disease that leaves babies with undersized heads and various degrees of nerve damage, but recent reports indicate that the virus could also cause paralysis. The world is still reeling from the scare of the Ebola outbreak, which claimed more than 11,000 lives in West Africa between 2014 and 2015 and from what we are seeing and hearing, the zika outbreak is in many ways worse because of how the virus could be transmitted.
Colombia says that more than 30,000 citizens have been diagnosed with Zika, while Brazil, Venezuela, El Salvador and Suriname have reported mounting cases of the disease. And here in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed two cases of Guillain-Barre, a disease that is linked to the Zika virus. Those affected were presumably travelers who returned from the affected areas. Unfortunately, health experts face mounting problems in trying to contain the virus.
There is currently no vaccine that can fight the disease and if even there is, testing the vaccine on pregnant women could pose its own problems. Reports also indicate that 80% of those infected show no symptoms, a situation that could create tracking problems.
Such is the looming specter of Zika. The world initially remained passive with the Ebola virus until it became an international health concern. Having learnt our lesson, we must rise up to the challenge and meet the disease head on. It is a dreaded disease that can turn the world upside down and we should spare no efforts in bringing it under control.

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