admin Mar.11, 2016 No Comment
The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus a global public health emergency.
The infection is suspected of leading to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains.
Some areas have declared a state of emergency, doctors have described it as “a pandemic in progress” and some are even advising women in affected countries to delay getting pregnant.
But there is much we do not know in this emerging infection.
What are the symptoms of Zika virus ?
Deaths are rare and only one-in-five people infected is thought to develop symptoms.
- mild fever
- conjunctivitis (red, sore eyes)
- joint pain
- a rash
A rare nervous system disorder, Guillain-Barre syndrome, that can cause temporary paralysis has been linked to the infection. There is no vaccine or drug treatment so patients are advised to rest and drink plenty of fluids.
But the biggest concern is the impact it could have on babies developing in the womb and the surge in microcephaly.
What is microcephaly?
It is when a baby is born with an abnormally small head, as their brain has not developed properly.
The severity varies, but it can be deadly if the brain is so underdeveloped that it cannot regulate the functions vital to life. Children that do survive face intellectual disability and development delays. It can be caused by infections such as rubella, substance abuse during pregnancy or genetic abnormalities.
Why is it a public health emergency?
The World Health Organization is worried that Zika is spreading far and fast, with devastating consequences.
Declaring Zika as a “public health emergency of international concern” singles the disease out as a serious global threat. It puts it in the same category of importance as Ebola.
Unlike Ebola, where the focus was on boots on the ground, with Zika the attention will be on understanding the link with microcephaly.The WHO will coordinate countries’ health agencies to conduct trials to determine the risk. It will also encourage efforts to stop the mosquito that spreads the disease as well as finding a treatment or a vaccine to stop the virus.