‘Zika can break out any­where’

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

The Brazil­ian doc­tor who first linked the Zika virus to brain dam­age in ba­bies warns that rich coun­tries are not safe from the dis­ease, urg­ing them 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 Novem­ber 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. Melo said the world has not done enough since then to un­der­stand and fight this “ne­glected” dis­ease. She urged wealthy coun­tries to wake up to 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 told AFP in an in­ter­view 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. Melo called for more clin­i­cal stud­ies of Zika, which has been linked not only to mi­cro­cephaly in ba­bies but also a po­ten­tially deadly neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der called Guil­lain-Barre syn­drome in adults. There is cur­rently no treat­ment or vac­cine for the virus, whose mild, flu-like symp­toms be­lie its po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing side ef­fects.

‘Here to stay’

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.Then, last July, US health 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.—AFP

SAO PAULO: Photo shows the pu­pas of trans­genic mos­quito Aedes ae­gypti OX513A. Gov­ern­ments and phi­lan­thropists an­nounced an $18 mil­lion plan to re­lease mos­qui­toes re­sis­tant to Zika, dengue and other viruses in ur­ban ar­eas of Colom­bia and Brazil. — AFP

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