Zika virus declared global health emergency

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the Zika virus a global emergency. The world health body expects the current outbreak to affect four million people in Latin America this year alone.

WHO has confirmed that to combat the outbreak, the world would require a united response.

Experts are worried that the virus is spreading far and fast, with devastating consequences.
The infection has been linked to cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with underdeveloped brains.

The WHO alert puts Zika in the same category of concern as Ebola.

It means research and aid will be fast-tracked to tackle the infection.

There have been around 4,000 reported cases of microcephaly in Brazil alone since October 2015.

The last time a global emergency was declared was following the Ebola outbreak in December 2013, which is thought to have led to more than 11,000 deaths.

Health experts have said the Zika outbreak could be far worse than Ebola.

The outbreak of Zika, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, began in Brazil in May 2015 and has moved into more than 20 countries in Latin America.

The main concern is Zika’s possible link to microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with brain damage and unusually small heads. Reported cases of microcephaly are rising sharply in Brazil though researchers have yet to establish a direct link.

Colombia has also seen a rise in the number of patients diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder which can cause paralysis.

People travelling or intending to travel from the UK to these destinations are being asked to seek medical advice from their GP or local health practitioner before their journey.

The UK National Travel Health Network and Centre (Nathnac) recommends that anyone pregnant or trying to becoming pregnant should reconsider travel to affected countries.

Nathnac also urged health professionals to consider Zika as a possible diagnosis in any patients with fever returning from South and Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, south and south-east Asia and the Pacific region.

Public Health England (PHE) has said men in the UK should wear condoms for a month after returning from any of the countries affected by Zika. In guidance to health professionals, PHE said the risk of transmission of the virus through sex was very low but condoms should be used as a precaution.

TNT Health Yasin Chinembiri

 

 

Photo Credit: Rafaelgilo

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