A meeting conducted on 1st February 2016, by the WHO, concluded that the outbreak of the Zika Virus Plaguing large parts of Central and South America, needs to be treated as a major public health emergency, and mandates international co-ordination[i]
This consensus was reached largely based on the strong co-relation between the Zika Virus and the development of microcephaly; a developmental disorder afflicting newborns when the mother is infected during pregnancy
According to the WHO, an international effort is required to minimize the threat presented to the affected countries, and to restrict the free travel of the virus across the globe.
This time, the outbreak of the virus originally appeared in Brazil in 2015, ironically in an area where genetically modified mosquitoes were released to combat malaria and dengue outbreaks.
Currently, more than one million cases have been reported, along with significant increases in reported cases of neonatal microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome.
How Are Affected Countries Handling The Outbreak?
According to the Health Minister of Brazil, the outbreak is serious[ii] and currently difficult to contain, since more and more cases are reported every week, and prevention is difficult
A vaccine for the disease is not available, and not likely before the end of 2016, leaving Brazilian Public Health Authorities no choice but to combat the vector; the aedes aegypti mosquitoes themselves.
Soldiers have been employed to inspect individual premises for possible breeding grounds of the mosquitoes, with the intention of clearing and minimizing their reproduction.
The director general of the WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, emphasized that at this time the best combative tools available were controlling the population of active vectors, and prevention of bites; especially in pregnant women at high risk of fetal damage.
In spite of the call for a coordinated response, the director general also opined that there was no need to restrict travel or trade, in an attempt to stem trans-global spread.
Skeptics, however, have been questioning the ability of the WHO to manage outbreaks in light of its poor control of the recent Ebola scare across the globe.