“Zi­ka vi­rus is no lon­ger a glo­bal he­alth emer­g­en­cy”

Times of Suriname - - ENGELS -

Wo­men plan­ning on get­ting preg­nant might not need to chan­ge their ho­li­day plans in the next cou­ple of ye­ars, as the World He­alth Or­ga­ni­sa­ti­on (WHO) has an­noun­ced the Zi­ka vi­rus out­break no lon­ger po­ses a world he­alth emer­g­en­cy. But it is war­ned the vi­rus, which is lin­ked to the de­for­ma­ti­ons in ba­bies’ heads and brains, still remains an epi­de­mic chal­len­ge. “The Zi­ka vi­rus remains a high­ly sig­ni­fi­cant and long term pro­blem, but it is not any mo­re a pu­blic he­alth emer­g­en­cy of in­ter­na­ti­o­nal con­cern,” says the world he­alth bo­dy’s emer­g­en­cy com­mit­tee chair Dr Da­vid Hey­mann. The WHO was ca­re­ful not to dis­miss the risk still po­sed by the vi­rus, which has been de­tec­ted in 73 coun­tries world­wi­de, main­ly in La­tin Ame­ri­ca and the Ca­rib­bean. “We are not down­g­ra­ding the im­por­tan­ce of Zi­ka, in fact by pla­cing this as a lon­ger term of pro­gram­me of work, we’re sen­ding the mes­sa­ge that Zi­ka is he­re to stay and WHO’s res­pon­se is he­re to stay in a very ro­bust man­ner,” ad­ds Dr Pe­ter Sa­la­ma, di­rec­tor of the ag­en­cy’s he­alth emer­gen­cies pro­gram­me. The­re are still, he ad­ded, “a lot of un­knowns” in the batt­le against Zi­ka. “Ma­ny as­pects of this di­sea­se and as­so­ci­a­ted con­se­quen­ces still remain to be un­der­stood, but this can best be do­ne through sustai­ned re­search.” Ho­we­ver, Bra­zil - the epi­cen­ter of the out­break has re­fu­sed to down­g­ra­de the risk. “We will main­tain the emer­g­en­cy (sta­tus) in Bra­zil un­til we are com­ple­te­ly tran­quil about the si­tu­a­ti­on,” says Bra­zi­li­an He­alth Mi­nis­ter Ri­car­do Bar­ros.

Mo­re than 1.5 mil­li­on pe­o­p­le ha­ve been in­fec­ted with Zi­ka, main­ly in Bra­zil sin­ce the out­break which be­gan mid last year.

And sin­ce last year, mo­re than 1,600 ba­bies ha­ve been born with mi­cro­cep­ha­ly, ac­cor­ding to the WHO, cau­sing the UN’s glo­bal he­alth ag­en­cy to de­cla­re the Zi­ka epi­de­mic a glo­bal he­alth emer­g­en­cy. In most ca­ses world­wi­de, pe­o­p­le ha­ve been in­fec­ted with the vi­rus by mosqui­toes, though so­me ha­ve con­trac­ted the di­sea­se through sexu­al con­tact.

Re­searchers ear­lier this year war­ned that at least 2.6 bil­li­on pe­o­p­le, over a third of the glo­bal po­pu­la­ti­on, li­ve in parts of Afri­ca, Asia and the Pa­ci­fic whe­re Zi­ka could gain a new foot­hold, with 1.2 bil­li­on at risk in In­dia alo­ne.

Whi­le Zi­ka cau­ses on­ly mild sympt­oms in most pe­o­p­le, it’s be­lie­ved the­re is a link bet­ween preg­nant wo­men with the vi­rus risk gi­ving birth to ba­bies with mi­cro­cep­ha­ly, a de­for­ma­ti­on that leads to ab­nor­mal­ly small brains and heads.

It can al­so cau­se ra­re adul­ton­set neu­ro­lo­gi­cal pro­blems such as Guil­lain-Bar­re Syn­dro­me (GBS), which can re­sult in pa­ra­ly­sis and even de­ath.

Two an­ti-Zi­ka vac­ci­nes are cur­rent­ly being tested. Cur­rent­ly, the­re is no cu­re for Zi­ka. (ya­hoonews)

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