Posted: January 28, 2016. 8:16 p.m. CST.
By Dalila Ical: Health officials continue to monitor Zika in the Americas as the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that about four million people can be infected with the virus. The situation has prompted the need for swift action by WHO and the US National Institute of Health has said they had two potential Zika vaccines in development.
As the concern mounts, WHO has set up an emergency committee and is expected to meet on Monday to decide whether the disease should be treated as a global emergency. WHO Director General, Dr Margaret Chan said: “I am asking the committee for advice on the appropriate level of international concern and for recommended measures that should be undertaken in affected countries and elsewhere.”
Meanwhile, the US has indicated that it hopes to begin human vaccine trials by the end of 2016” reports BBC News, adding that “Dr Anthony Fauci from NIH pointed out that these are based “on an experimental West Nile vaccine could be re-purposed for Zika and enter clinical trials by the end of 2016…but a vaccine would not be widely available for several years”.
The virus so far has not presented life threatening symptoms in adults, and it is believed that most infected persons may not develop any. The concern lies primarily in unborn children as the virus is being linked to brain defects in babies called microcephaly.
Health officials are deeply concerned as Brazil, where the first case was reported in South America, has recorded up to 500,000 infections, said WHO. The country is also reporting an alarming increase in the cases of microcephaly, almost 4,000 cases, over 30 times the reported cases in 2014.
As a precautionary measure, women in affected countries are being advised against getting pregnant. Travelers are also being warned to avoid these areas, especially pregnant women. 21 countries in the American region have reported cases of Zika and the virus has even reached the US where at least 31 cases have been confirmed in persons believed to have traveled to the affected areas.
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