Zika No Longer Constitutes International Emergency- W.H.O

Zika, w.h.oThe World Health Organization (W.H.O), has declared that the Zika virus and related neurological complications, no longer constitute an international emergency.

However, the agency says it would continue to work on the outbreak through a “robust” programme, as the virus still represents “a significant and an enduring public health challenge”.

In February, W.H.O Director-General, Margaret Chan, had called it an “extraordinary event”, while declaring a public health emergency.

Carried by mosquitoes, the Zika virus can cause the rare birth defect, Microcephaly, (where babies are born with abnormally small heads and restricted brain development) and other neurological disorders in infants and adults.

It has spread to more than 60 countries and territories since the current outbreak was identified in 2015, in Brazil.

Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff had said “as long as the mosquito keeps reproducing, each and every one of us is losing the battle against the mosquito”.

“We have to mobilize so we do not lose this battle.”

Health officials in affected countries had advised women to avoid pregnancy – in some cases, for up to two years.

Here are a few things you might need to know about the virus

  • Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (aegypti and Ae albopictus)
  • These mosquitoes bite during the day and night.
  • Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus and infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.
  • There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
  • In most people, symptoms of the virus are mild, including fever, headache, rash and possible pink eye. In fact, 80% of those infected never know they have the disease.

157 Pregnant Women In U.S. Infected With Zika – CDC

MosquitoThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that some 157 pregnant women in the United States and another 122 in U.S. territories, primarily Puerto Rico, have tested positive for infection with the Zika virus.

The CDC, in a conference call, said that so far fewer than a dozen of the infected pregnant women it has tracked in the United States and Puerto Rico have had miscarriages or babies born with birth defects.

This was the first time the agency had disclosed the number of Zika-infected pregnant women in the United States and its territories.

According to Reuters, U.S. health officials have determined that the mosquito-borne virus, which can also be transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected person, can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by unusually small head size, and can lead to severe brain abnormalities and developmental problems in babies.

The agency told reporters on the call it has dramatically increased its testing capacity for Zika in the United States, as it girds for an increase in cases during the summer mosquito season.

Virtually all the Zika cases in the continental United States so far have been in people returning from countries where Zika is prevalent, such as Brazil, or through sexual transmission by travellers.

The latest report comes at a time when U.S. health officials have been clamouring for adequate funding to support mosquito protection and eradication, development of anti-Zika vaccines and better diagnostics and long-term studies needed to follow children born to infected mothers and to better understand the sexual transmission risk.

WHO Sees Zika Link Proven In weeks As U.S. India, Lead Vaccine Race

zika whoThe World Health Organization (WHO) expects suspected links between the Zika virus and two neurological disorders, microcephaly in babies and Guillain-Barre syndrome, to be confirmed within weeks, a top official said on Friday.

A sharp increase in birth defects in Brazil has triggered a global health emergency over the mosquito-borne virus and spurred a race to develop a vaccine and better diagnostic tests.

“We have a few more weeks to be sure to demonstrate causality, but the link between Zika and Guillain-Barre is highly probable,” Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, told a news briefing.

Kieny said U.S. government scientists and an Indian biotechnology company were currently frontrunners in vaccine development, although it would take at least 18 months to start large-scale clinical trials of candidate shots.

“Two vaccine candidates seem to be more advanced: a DNA vaccine from the U.S. National Institutes for Health and an inactivated product from Bharat Biotech in India,” she said.

The NIH is working on a DNA-based vaccine that uses the same approach as one being developed for West Nile virus. India’s Bharat said last week that its experimental vaccine would start pre-clinical trials in animals imminently.

Overall, around 15 groups are working on Zika vaccines, including France’s Sanofi (SASY.PA), as well as researchers in Brazil, who announced a new partnership with the University of Texas on Thursday.

The road to developing a preventative shot against the disease is strewn with hurdles, however, not least because the group viewed as most at risk are pregnant women.

Improved diagnostic tests are also viewed as critical to fighting the disease, which is now sweeping through the Americas, and Kieny said new test kits were being rapidly developed and could be available in weeks.

Researchers in Brazil are scrambling to determine whether Zika has caused a major rise in microcephaly, or abnormally small heads in newborns, with more than 4,000 suspected cases of the condition reported to date. Brazil has confirmed more than 400 of those cases as microcephaly and has identified the presence of Zika in 17 babies, but a link has yet to be proven.

Still, many scientists are convinced that the link is real and new evidence of Zika in the brain of an aborted fetus, reported on Wednesday, has added to the case.

Health Minister Allays Zika Virus Fears In Nigeria

ZikaThe Minister of Health has been giving an update on the outbreak of Lassa fever in different parts of the country, saying the disease has so far affected 20 states of the federation.

Professor Isaac Adewole addressed a press conference in the nation’s capital, Abuja, on Thursday.

“You will all recall that on the 8th of January 2016, I briefed the nation on the current outbreak of Lassa fever that started in December 2015 and which has now affected 20 states of the federation.

“As of today, Nigeria has recorded 176 cases with 108 deaths, giving a case fatality rate of 61.4%.

“It is important that I inform the nation that this current outbreak is under control as evident by decline in new suspected cases, new laboratory confirmed cases and newly reported cases by week.

“Despite this achievement however, you will all agree with me that it will be too dangerous for us as a nation to go complacent at this stage,” he said.

The Minister also dismissed fears about the possible outbreak of Zika virus in Nigeria, saying there is no need to worry.

“Although two African countries have reported Zika infection in the recent outbreak and in the past many others, causal relationship between Zika virus infection, birth defect and neurological syndromes have not been established in this continent.

“Nigerian scientist working in Western Nigeria in 1954 discovered Zika Virus in Nigeria. Further studies in the years 1975 to 1979 show that 40% of Nigerian adults and 25% of Nigerian children have antibodies to Zika Virus, meaning they are protected against this virus.”

UK Records Four Cases Of Zika Virus

MosquitoFour cases of the Zika virus have been confirmed in the United Kingdom.

A public health doctor in England, Dilys Morgan, said four “travel-associated” cases of the virus had been found in the last six weeks.

The main concern surrounding the virus is a possible link between the virus and a rise in cases of microcephaly, a birth defect characterised by an abnormally small head that can result in developmental problems.

Zika is spreading rapidly through Latin America and most people who contract it have either mild or no symptoms.

The World Health Organisation declared Zika a global emergency last month, with some countries discouraging nationals from travelling to Latin American counties.

First Zika Virus Case Confirmed In Europe

ZikaA pregnant woman has been diagnosed with the Zika virus in Spain.

This is the first such case in Europe.

The health ministry said the woman had recently returned from Colombia, where it is believed she was infected.

Zika, which is spreading through the Americas, has been linked to babies being born with underdeveloped brains.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the microcephaly condition, linked to the mosquito-borne virus, a global public health emergency.

On Thursday, the WHO also advised countries not to accept blood donations from people who had travelled to Zika-affected regions.

The link between Zika infection and microcephaly has not been confirmed and the risks at different stages of pregnancy are unknown.

The WHO has predicted that at least four million people could be infected with Zika in the Americas in 2016.

The agency expressed belief that most victims would not develop symptoms, stressing that the infection had been linked to brain defects in babies.

First U.S. Zika Virus Transmission Reported

zika virus 4The first known case of Zika virus transmission in the United States was reported in Texas on Tuesday by local health officials, who said it likely was contracted through sex and not a mosquito bite, a day after the World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency.

The virus, linked to severe birth defects in thousands of babies in Brazil, is spreading rapidly in the Americas, and WHO officials on Tuesday expressed concern that it could hit Africa and Asia as well. Zika had been thought to be spread by the bite of mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, so sexual contact as a mode of transmission would be a potentially alarming development.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed it was the first U.S. Zika case in someone who had not traveled abroad in the current outbreak, said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden on Twitter.

However, the CDC has not investigated how the virus was transmitted.

After this case, the CDC advised men to consider using condoms after traveling to areas with the Zika virus. Pregnant women should avoid contact with semen from men exposed to the virus.

The Dallas County Department of health said on Twitter that the person was infected through sexual contact with someone who had traveled to Venezuela. The person infected did not travel to the South American country, county health officials said.

The Texas Department of State Health Services was slightly more cautious in its assessment, saying in a statement, “Case details are being evaluated, but the possibility of sexual transmission from an infected person to a non-infected person is likely in this case.”

County authorities said there were no reports of the virus being transmitted by mosquitoes in the Texas county.

Previously, international health officials had noted one U.S. case of possible person-to-person sexual transmission. But the Pan American Health Organization said more evidence was needed to confirm sexual contact as a means of Zika transmission. The medical literature also has one case in which the virus was detected in semen.

The virus has been reported in more than 30 countries and linked to microcephaly, in which babies have abnormally small heads and improperly developed brains.

The American Red Cross on Tuesday asked blood donors who have traveled to Zika virus outbreak areas such as Mexico, the Caribbean, or Central or South America to wait at least 28 days before donating. However, the risk of transmitting the virus through blood donations remained “extremely” low in the continental United States, the disaster relief agency said.