GlobeMed is back with a buzz! As you may have heard, the Zika virus has been creating quite a stir in the public health world lately, and today at GlobeMed, that was the topic of our discussion. Although the Zika virus has been around for over 50 years, only recently has it been gaining attention. In the past year, the virus has migrated to the Western hemisphere, particularly Latin American countries like Brazil and El Salvador. Originally, this virus was assumed to be relatively mild because people would experience slight or even no symptoms. However, there have been recent findings that indicate that strong correlations exist between the infection of the Zika virus and birthrates of babies diagnosed with microcephaly. In layman's terms, microcephaly is when a baby is born with a smaller head, and the effects can range from completely inconsequential to severe mental defects such as not being able to talk or walk. Women in the first or second trimester are particularly susceptible to having babies with these effects, and they are being advised not to travel to infected regions.
Our partner country El Salvador has taken precautions one step further and advised women not to get pregnant until 2018. In this heavily Roman Catholic region, abortion is stringently illegal, and birth control is advocated against, so abstinence seems to be the viable option. However, in giving such a directive, problems will invariably arise, one of the most prominent being that little to no information has been given to the civilians about why it is important to avoid pregnancy. There is a general lack of information about the Zika virus. Only recently has any significant research been done to understand the effects of this pathogen. In fact, just today, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a global emergency which should increase funds toward research.
As studies continues, the most immediate solution of stopping the spread of the virus is killing its vector: the mosquito. Governments have initiated mass gassings of mosquitos, but it will be near impossible to eradicate the problem. Unfortunately, the regions affected seem to be those least equipped to deal with health issues: those countries that lack sufficient infrastructure and resources. As scientists scramble for a vaccine, we must continue our efforts to be more informed and support the affected countries in any way we can.
Until next week,