Home » Current Affairs » Zika virus outbreak: WHO declares it a global public health emergency 

Zika virus outbreak: WHO declares it a global public health emergency 

WHO Director, Margaret Chan declaring a World Health Emergency over the outbreak of Zika Virus. (Image Courtesy: Google)

There has been recent outbreak in some of the parts of the world like Brazil or Latin America. This virus which is being responsible for the under developed brains in new born baby is being slowly growing and spreading in different countries of the world. According to the recent survey being carried out, Zika Virus is now being infecting people in almost 20 different countries of the world.

Keeping in mind with the recent large number of new born babies being born with malformed or deformed head, WHO has declared a public health emergency for the disease. As this disease is being spreading at a rapid rate and being affecting the new born so it is being of main concern to them and thus WHO Director, Margaret Chan has declared a health emergency.

Chan called this event of microcephaly an extraordinary event and of a public threat, being addressing a meeting of the WHO’s international health regulations emergency committee. She declares that the members of the committee have been agreed that the situation meets the conditions being necessary for a health emergency of an International concern.

Image showing the comparision of a newly born normal child and the child being affected with the virus. Left child is affected one. (Image Courtesy: Google)
Image showing the comparision of a newly born normal child and the child being affected with the virus. Left child is affected one. (Image Courtesy: Google)

Potential Threats

The microcephaly is not being of a serious concern for a normal adult and thus it had been difficult to declare the disease of International concern, Prof David Heymann, chair of the emergency committee commented. This disease is of a major concern only to pregnant women’s at this time, as the new born child with this virus has restricted brain development right from their childhood which is a serious concern.

One of the another major concern is that it doesn’t carries any of the symptoms of its own. According to one of the estimate about 1.5 million cases are just based on guesswork. About 80% of the people being infected by the virus doesn’t develop any symptoms.

Public health officials are being actively participating to kill breeding grounds for the Aedes mosquito, particularly in the regions being stricken by poverty. The new law being implemented will allow the officials to have access to places which has become a breeding ground for the Aedes mosquito.

Image showing the immature brain development of a child being affected by Zika Virus. (Image Courtesy: Google)
Image showing the immature brain development of a child being affected by Zika Virus. (Image Courtesy: Google)

Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)

It is one kind of alarm being used by WHO to spread awareness and international concern about a particular disease which is being concern harm to the human life. It will also help the countries to have enough medical resources too to completely eradicate the disease. Thus it is like a political tool being meant for help to all the countries of the world in case of some kind of emergency situation by means of some kind of deadly disease.

Schematic view of active Zika Virus cases from around the world. (Image Courtesy: Google)
Schematic view of active Zika Virus cases from around the world. (Image Courtesy: Google)

PHEIC – Declaration

The World Health Organization gathers a panel of experts under International Health Regulations. This committee being formed will discuss and access the potential risk which this disease can cause to different nations of the world. After discussion they will advice the WHO Director General (Dr. Margaret Chan) about declaring a PHEIC or not. So far, she has always followed committee’s advice as she did this time for Zika Virus.

Schematic view showing the active countries which has received travel alerts for stopping the spreading of the virus. (Image Courtesy: Google)
Schematic view showing the active countries which has received travel alerts for stopping the spreading of the virus. (Image Courtesy: Google)

How often the PHEIC being declared?

WHO doesn’t declare PHEIC too often, for keeping its integrity and importance intact. Declaring it too often will make to loose its importance among different nations. Until the International Health Regulations has been enacted in 2007, WHO has only declared the PHEIC only three times.

The first declaration being in 2009, being declared in response to the outbreak of H1N1 swine flu. Second being in May 2014, when the polio was seeming to be surged again. Third time being in August 2014, when there was massive outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa. So, we can say Zika will be the fourth PHEIC declaration in the history. It is also being the first time when WHO has issued such a warning for a mosquito borne disease.

This declaration is not being done too often as it leads to restrictions over the economic aspect of the nation too. Repeated declaration will also down value the significance of the declaration.

PHEIC declaration – Impact

The declaration of PHEIC doesn’t leads to substantial impact over the nation (excluding the economic loss). Declaration of a nation under PHEIC would not lead to the economic help to the nation by means of WHO. This declaration will help in proper supply of medicine or vaccinations along with the necessary information being necessary for the complete eradication of the disease.

Thus even though it doesn’t involve substantial monetary benefits but it leads to a major amount of resources moving. Some of the poor state of the world which are in lack of subsequent information and medical aids can be greatly benefited by this declaration.

Health emergency in Latin America

There has been great measures being taken in Latin America for the eradication of the Virus. There has been restrictions over the travel of the public of these nation to avoid spreading of the disease. This travel advice might also have something to do with the upcoming Olympics in Rio. Right now, WHO has been alerting different countries with potential threat of the virus and advising the health officials to coordinate with the public health response.

The PHEIC will also regulate the growth of the Aedes mosquito being responsible for spreading of the virus. They will be sending resources needed to these nations for stopping the further spreading of this virus. Brazil, which is being a medium sized economy might not need subsequent help but the countries like Latin America might probably need.

Brazilian researchers being working with the researchers of United states says that it could probably take 3 to 5 years to develop a vaccine against this disease.

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