❝The Zika virus, blamed for thousands of deformities in babies in what is a growing crisis across Latin America, could see “explosive” growth and affect up to 4 million people globally, experts at the World Health Organization said Thursday.
Margaret Chan, director-general of the U.N.’s health agency, said the organization will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to decide if Zika should be declared an international emergency. She added that the spread of the mosquito-borne disease had gone from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions…
❝The virus “is now spreading explosively,” she added.
“As of today, cases have been reported in 23 countries and territories in the (Americas) region,” Chan told WHO executive board members at a meeting in Geneva.
Meanwhile, Dr. Anne Schuchat of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told reporters Thursday that there have been 31 cases of Zika infection among U.S. citizens who traveled to areas affected by the virus. So far, there have been no cases of transmission of the virus through mosquitoes in the United States…
Schuchat said that “any outbreaks in the continental U.S. would be limited” for reasons including the fact that urban areas in the U.S. are “not as densely populated” as in the countries where the virus has spread.
❝Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, said one of the potential vaccines was based on work done on the West Nile virus. Fauci said that vaccine was never developed because a drug company partner could not be found, but he did not see this as an issue for Zika…
There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika, which is a close cousin of dengue and chikungunya and causes mild fever, rash and red eyes. An estimated 80 percent of people infected have no symptoms, making it difficult for pregnant women to know whether they have been infected.
❝Brazil’s Health Ministry said in November 2015 that Zika was linked to a fetal deformation known as microcephaly, in which infants are born with abnormally small heads.
Brazil has reported 3,893 suspected cases of microcephaly, the WHO said last week, more than 30 times more than in any year since 2010 and equivalent to 1-2 percent of all newborns in the state of Pernambuco, one of the worst-hit areas.
Chan said that while a direct causal relationship between Zika virus infection and birth malformations has not yet been established, it is “strongly suspected…The possible links, only recently suspected, have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions…”
Scary stuff. Following on the Web, it appears a broad range of medical bodies throughout the Americas are marshaling forces as quickly as possible. From DNA research to a range of potential vaccines, folks are trying to get ahead of this.
I saw an interview, this morning, where the doctor simply said – sexually active young women should be conscious of mosquito season anywhere they may travel. If they live in a country with a substantial mosquito season and lacking the budget for eradication programs, consider insect repellents – until vaccines are available.