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article imageWHO reviews current Zika threat

By Tim Sandle     Mar 16, 2016 in Health
The World Health Organization (WHO) has convened its second meeting on the Zika virus disease, which is regarded as an international threat.
The second meeting followed an initial meeting held on February 1, 2016. Here a Public Health Emergency of International Concern was declared. The second meeting was an Emergency Committee convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations. The meeting looked at the current outbreak patterns.
Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus. The disease has been reported in 26 countries. Most adults are unaffected. Those who show symptoms display mild feverish symptoms. However, the disease is associated with fetal and newborn microcephaly (a reduced and misshaped brain). In addition the disease may poses a risk of potential neurological complications, including Guillain-Barré syndrome (a rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by the immune system damaging the peripheral nervous system).
The WHO committee looked at patterns of microcephaly as well as neurological disorders (particularly Guillain-Barré syndrome) in the countries affected by the Zika virus. The group is set to review further experimental studies. While associations were evident between Zika and both microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome, WHO has yet to declare a definitive link and has indicated further data is required. Other studies commissioned included generating data on the genetic sequences and clinical effect of different Zika virus strains.
The committee made several recommendations for the management of the disease. These included mosquito control, risk communication (due to concerns about reporting), clinical care (especially for pregnant women), and travel measures (with advice geared towards pregnant women.) With vector control, this involves the determination of mosquito vector species and their sensitivity to insecticides.
In related news, Digital Journal reported a few weeks ago about gene technology being moot as a solution for controlling Zika by genetically modifying male mosquitoes to breed with natural females with the intention of creating off-spring that cannot breed.
The idea is to release Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, with altered genomes, “manufactured” by a company called Oxitec that has been given the go-ahead in Florida, at an isolated peninsula north of Key West. This move is not supported by all scientists due to the risk to other insects and the overall impact on the ecosystem. The experiment will not be enacted until a period of public consolation, involving residents, has been completed.
More about zika, Zika virus, Who, Health, Epidemiology
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