The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus “a Public Health Emergency of International Concern” today.
The WHO cited a suspected, though not yet scientifically proven, link between infection during pregnancy and microcephaly, the way the disease is spreading to vulnerable people, and the lack of vaccines and tests were also given as reasons.
Zika is spread by common mosquitoes, and is thought to have arrived in the Americas two years ago from areas of Africa where it’s endemic. It’s suspected to be the culprit behind 3,700 babies reportedly born with abnormally small heads — microcephaly — in Brazil, the country hardest hit in the Americas.
Said WHO, “A coordinated international response is needed to improve surveillance, the detection of infections, congenital malformations, and neurological complications, to intensify the control of mosquito populations, and to expedite the development of diagnostic tests and vaccines to protect people at risk, especially during pregnancy.
The first priority is control of mosquito populations and preventing mosquito bites in people at risk, especially pregnant women, said the organization.
Read three pieces on F&O that put the Zika emergency in context:
Did health agencies fumble Zika response? By Paulo Prada
It took months for Brazil’s health ministry to recognize the Zika virus had arrived. And so far, the World Health Organization’s hesitant response to the outbreak –which has created the worst global health scare since Ebola –says much about the difficulties that the WHO and other health authorities face in combating unexpected public health threats. … go to the story
Where did Zika virus come from, and why is it in Brazil? By Amy Y Vittor
Urbanization, changing climate, air travel and transportation, and waxing and waning control efforts that are at the mercy of economic and political factors have led to these mosquitoes spreading to new areas and coming back in areas where they had previously been eradicated. … go to the story.
Love in the time of Zika. By Beverley Paterson
Love, sex and babies are the foundation of human existence. Without them the human race ceases to exist. Zika, a virus that few people had heard of a month ago, has suddenly disrupted this normal course of events. …go to the story.
F&O’s new works this week also include:
Snow, science, solitude: Ny-Alesund, Norway
ANNA FILIPOVA & ALISTER DOYLE Photo-Essay
The Islamic State is a mere shadow of the Assassins’ Caliphate
JONATHAN MANTHORPE, International Affairs Column
America’s ‘Arab Spring’
JIM MCNIVEN, Thoughtlines column
Newspapers their own worst enemy in battle to survive
TOM REGAN, Summoning Orenda Column
Facts and Opinions is employee-owned, and relies on the honour system: try one story at no charge and, if you value our no-spam, no-ads work, please chip in at least .27 per story, or a sustaining donation, below. Details here.