Friday, November 18, 2016

Zika: No longer a Global Health Emergency

The World Health Organization announced earlier today that Zika is no longer considered a global health emergency—it is now a chronic threat. And as the chairman of the emergency committee on Zika virus and microcephaly, Dr. David Heymann, stated, this announcement does “not [down regulate] the importance of Zika. By placing this as a long-term program of work, we are saying Zika is here to stay.”
Zika was placed as a global health emergency earlier this year because there were high amounts of clusterings of babies with microcephaly in certain areas and they hoped that by placing the international title more research would be conducted in hopes of finding a solution for the teratogenic disease. As a result, in April it was confirmed that Zika causes microcephaly in babies and Guillain-Barré Syndrome in adults and efforts to educate and prevent pregnant mothers were put in place.
The rate of Zika infections has since decreased, but mostly because those areas with high rates of Zika are no longer in mosquito season. Therefore, WHO suggests placing efforts into research now to develop a vaccine and prevent Zika in the upcoming season. The WHO does not want people to believe that Zika is no longer an issue because all the risks of the mosquito are still present and no effective vaccine is available yet. The CDC, as a result of this announcement, also announced today that pregnant women should still avoid traveling to areas with “local transmission of Zika because of the devastating complications that can occur in fetuses that become infected during pregnancy.” It will be interesting to see how research efforts and human perception of the threat from Zika change because of this announcement. Hopefully research efforts do not dwindle and a cure for Zika is found within the next year, although vaccine development usually does take a lot longer.

-Jeanette Rios

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