We have been following the mosquito-borne Zika virus epidemic, which had been declared an international medical emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The good news: The organization has officially ended the emergency status.
The bad news: The virus is now a permanent addition to our nation.
By lifting its nine-month-old declaration, the UN’s health agency is acknowledging that Zika is here to stay.
The infection has been linked to severe birth defects in almost 30 countries.
These include microcephaly, where babies are born with abnormally small heads and restricted brain development.
…Dr David Heymann, the head of a WHO emergency committee on the virus, said it still posed a “significant and enduring” threat.
The WHO will now shift to a longer-term approach against the infection, which has spread across Latin America, the Caribbean and beyond.
Mara Gambineri, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health, said the state still considers Zika a public health threat.
“Our state continues to see increases in both travel-related and locally acquired cases of Zika,” she said. “Everyone, especially pregnant women, still need to take Zika seriously and remain vigilant.”
In Florida, health officials have reported 1,188 Zika infections this year, with 234 locally acquired cases and 939 travel-related cases. Included in those two categories are 160 pregnant women, but the health department does not disclose their counties of residence or manner of infection.
Since Zika has already gained a foothold in this country, the best option to prevent the disease is vaccination. Interestingly, The New York Times just published a detailed analysis on the race to find one that is occurring between over a dozen different firms.
To get ahead, some teams are employing innovative technologies that rely on splicing DNA, a method that has the potential to revolutionize the development of vaccines but that has never before been approved for use in humans.
The prestige of solving the puzzle and the chance to save lives are possible rewards. For the companies, another motive is the potential for significant profit. Unlike many recent viral outbreaks, which have been confined to poor areas, Zika has spread to countries like Brazil and the United States, with millions of wealthy people and governments that can afford public vaccination campaigns.
“It’s highly unusual,” said Dr. Thomas P. Monath, the chief scientific officer and chief operating officer of NewLink Genetics, one of the companies developing a vaccine. “It reflects the big opportunity and public health need, and also the fact that we have more, different technologies available today.”
It is heartening to see a report that highlights how free markets actually help the general public. This is a “new normal” that I could really learn to love.DONATE
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