From the initial discovery in the heart of Ugandan forest darkness to mysterious genetically-modified Mosquitoes in Brazil, the newest threat to human health (most notably pregnant women) is the ominous-sounding Zika virus. The epidemic is spreading from its epicenter in Brazil - threatening disaster at the Olympics with "female athletes to consider participation "very carefully"", to Colombia (with 2100 pregant women infected), and further north in America with CDC confirming 6 cases in Texas.
As we previously introduced, The World Health Organization is convening an Emergency Committee under International Health Regulations today, concerning the Zika virus ‘explosive’ spread throughout the Americas. The virus reportedly has the potential to reach pandemic proportions — possibly around the globe. But understandingwhy this outbreak happened is vital to curbing it. As the WHO statement said:
“A causal relationship between Zika virus infection and birth malformations and neurological syndromes … is strongly suspected. [These links] have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika, from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions.
“WHO is deeply concerned about this rapidly evolving situation for 4 main reasons: the possible association of infection with birth malformations and neurological syndromes; the potential for further international spread given the wide geographical distribution of the mosquito vector; the lack of population immunity in newly affected areas; and the absence of vaccines, specific treatments, and rapid diagnostic tests […]
“The level of concern is high, as is the level of uncertainty.”
Zika seemingly exploded out of nowhere. Though it was first discovered in 1947, cases only sporadically occurred throughout Africa and southern Asia.
In 2007, the first case was reported in the Pacific. In 2013, a smattering of small outbreaks and individual cases were officially documented in Africa and the western Pacific. They also began showing up in the Americas. In May 2015, Brazil reported its first case of Zika virus — and the situation changed dramatically.
And now, as The BBC reports, an alarming mixture of confusion and fear is blighting the pregnancies of thousands of women across this teeming tropical city in the northeast of Brazil, and wherever else the Zika virus has infected people.
Every day the emergency clinic at one of Recife's largest hospitals sees queues of nervous women so long that they reach into the car park, and the medical staff, already stretched, are now overwhelmed.
The enemy is uncertainty because the symptoms of Zika infection are worryingly vague: aches, a rash, itching and conjunctivitis are all typical and the slightest sign of them naturally leads the women to rush for help.
And for women thinking of pregnancy, there is a warning from one young mother.
Micaela da Souza's daughter Anica Vitoria has severe microcephaly and needs to be continually rocked to prevent her from becoming agitated, and her advice reflects the uncertainties of the science.
"I'd say it's not the moment to get pregnant because so far nobody knows where does this virus come from, how can this happen?"
This has further worried female athletes and attendees of the forthcoming Olympics. As The Daily Mail reports,
Rio's Olympics are on the verge of disaster as fear grows over the Zika virus, which has left more than 4,000 newborns with shrunken heads.
Female spectators and even athletes of childbearing age are being warned by countries and medical professionals around the world to reconsider their plans to travel to Brazil for fear of what could happen to their unborn children after the country was overrun by the mosquito-borne disease.
Russia and Australian officials have both raised fears for those women preparing to compete in August's Games, while numerous airlines around the world are offering pregnant women the chance to swap or refund their tickets to avoid travelling to affected areas - of which Brazil is the worst.
The combination of factors led Marcelo Castro, Brazil's health minister, to admit this week: 'We are losing the battle in a big way.'
But organisers are keen to stress the 2016 Games will go ahead - because they remain convinced Brazil will get the outbreak under control by the time the Games begin.
The country is now throwing everything it has at combating the problem. Ahead of this week's Carnival, more than 3,000 municipal health agents have been out on the city's streets, trying desperately to rid the city of its mosquito hotbeds.
They will be paying particular attention to Carnival and Olympic venues, which will be inspected daily during the big events.
But it seems the government's main hope for gaining control of the virus ahead of the Opening Ceremony in six months lies in something they have no control over whatsoever: the weather.
While Brazil is the country hit hardest by the disease - it has reported around 3,700 cases of microcephaly strongly suspected to be related to Zika - the virus is spreading dramatically.
To Colombia (as Reuters reports)
More than 2,100 pregnant Colombian women are infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, the country's national health institute said on Saturday, as the disease continues its spread across the Americas.
The virus has been linked to the devastating birth defect microcephaly, which prevents fetus' brains from developing properly. There is no vaccine or treatment.
There are 20,297 confirmed cases of the disease in Colombia, the national health institute said in a epidemiology bulletin, among them 2,116 pregnant women.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms six cases of Zika virus in Texas.
All of the cases are associated with travel to areas where Zika is currently being transmitted and all among residents of the southeast Texas region.
3rd confirmed case of Zika virus in greater Houston area; 2nd in city of Houston
Information about the patients is not being released.
And to Jamaica
Four-year-old child started showing symptoms Jan. 17 after returning to Jamaica from Texas, has now recovered, Health Ministry says in statement on website.
Case confirmed in tests by Caribbean Public Health Agency
Govt has adequate medication for treatment in event of additional cases being identified
Panic-mongering? None other than The CDC's Director himself said this virus is "spreading explosively," with travel notices posted for at least 22 countries...
- Zika Virus in Cape Verde
- Zika Virus in the Caribbean
Currently includes: Barbados; Dominican Republic; Guadeloupe; Haiti; Martinique; the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory; Saint Martin; U.S. Virgin Islands
- Zika Virus in Central America
Currently includes: El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama
- Zika Virus in Mexico
- Zika Virus in Samoa
- Zika Virus in South America
Currently includes: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela
And finally, following their convention today: It is official:
- *WHO SAYS ZIKA, MICROCEPHALY `PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY'
- *WHO:CAUSAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ZIKA IN PREGNANCY, MICROCEPHALY
The Zika virus is a global emergency, the World Health Organization said, citing possible links to infant brain damage...
The World Health Organization on Monday designated the Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern, an action it has taken only three times before, which paves the way for the mobilization of more funding and manpower to fight the mosquito-born pathogen spreading "explosively" through the Americas.
The declaration represents the WHO's highest level of alert and is only invoked in response to the most dire threats. The first time was in 2009 during the H1N1 influenza epidemic that is believed to have infected up to 200 million worldwide; the second in May 2014 when a paralyzing form of polio re-emerged in Pakistan and Syria; and the third in August 2014 with Ebola in West Africa.