‘Ne­glected’ dis­ease

Lead­ing doc­tor urges wealthy coun­tries to wake up as there is no treat­ment or vac­cine

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE in Rio de Janeiro

Brazil­ian doc­tor warns that “Zika can break out any­where” and calls for more re­search fund­ing.

The Brazil­ian doc­tor who first linked the Zika virus to brain dam­age in ba­bies has warned that rich coun­tries are not safe from the dis­ease,to increase re­search fund­ing.

Ob­ste­tri­cian Adri­ana Melo was the first per­son to make the con­nec­tion be­tween an out­break of Zika in Brazil and a surge in ba­bies born with mi­cro­cephaly, or ab­nor­mally small heads.

Melo, who works at the heart of the out­break in the north­east Brazil­ian city of Camp­ina Grande, sent her first sam­ple of am­ni­otic fluid in for Zika tests on Nov 10, 2015.

The pos­i­tive re­sult — the first of many for mothers whose ba­bies had the de­bil­i­tat­ing neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tion — sparked a chain re­ac­tion of alarm.

It cul­mi­nated in Fe­bru­ary, when the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion de­clared an in­ter­na­tional pub­lic health emer­gency over the link be­tween Zika and mi­cro­cephaly.

‘Ne­glected’ dis­ease

Melo said the world has not done enough since then to un­der­stand and fight this “ne­glected” dis­ease.

She urged wealthy coun­tries to wake­upto re­cent find­ings that Zika, which is typ­i­cally spread by trop­i­cal mos­qui­toes, can also be trans­mit­ted sex­u­ally, and pos­si­bly through other bod­ily flu­ids.

“We know there are other trans­mis­sion vec­tors and that (Zika) can break out any­where, in any coun­try,” she said in Rio de Janeiro, on the side­lines of an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence on the dis­ease.

“It’s a dis­ease that doesn’t in­ter­est rich coun­tries much be­cause they think it won’t reach them. But it’s a risk to un­der­es­ti­mate this virus. I am very afraid of viruses,” she said.

There is cur­rently no treat­ment or vac­cine for the virus, whose mild, flu-like symp­toms be­lie its po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing side ef­fects.

Brazil has been the coun­try hit hard­est by Zika, with 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple in­fected and more than 2,000 ba­bies born with brain dam­age.

The dis­ease, which orig­i­nated in Africa, has swept Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean since it was first de­tected in Brazil last year.

“Trav­eler’s Zika” — cases brought back by peo­ple who spent time in af­fected coun­tries — also reached Europe and the United States.

In July, US au­thor­i­ties an­nounced that lo­cally trans­mit­ted Zika cases had been de­tected in Florida.

Mean­while, warn­ings were emerg­ing that trop­i­cal mos­qui­toes were not the only vec­tor for the dis­ease.

In Fe­bru­ary 2016, theUS re­ported a case of sex­ual trans­mis­sion in Texas. Dozens more fol­lowed.

Re­cent re­search in­di­cates the virus could also be spread through tears or sweat.

It’s a dis­ease that doesn’t in­ter­est rich coun­tries much be­cause they think it won’t reach them. But it’s a risk to un­der­es­ti­mate this virus. I am very afraid of viruses.” Adri­ana Melo, ob­ste­tri­cian

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.