Health Emergency asserted in Puerto Rico because of Zika Virus
On 12th August, 2016, the American government declared a health emergency in Puerto Rico due to a Zika epidemic. Puerto Rico reported 1,914 new cases that broke last week itself and became the cause for a health emergency. The declaration of emergency enables the Health and Human Services Department to award grants, access emergency funds, appoint personnel wherever and whenever needed.
What is the Zika virus?
The Zika virus was first isolated in 1947 from a rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest of Uganda. Transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, Zika is largely un-symptomatic, sometimes causing rash, fever and headaches and is a non-fatal disease. However, when pregnant mothers are exposed to the Zika Virus, scientists have discovered that it has the tendency to cause neurological complications, including microcephaly in newborns.
What is microcephaly?
Microcephaly is a condition that affects the brain development in babies causing infants to be born with abnormally small heads. The disease is untreatable, causing severe developmental issues and sometimes early death.
Other South American countries dealing with Zika
Zika was first detected in South and Central America in February 2014, when Chile reported cases of the virus. In September 2015, Colombian health authorities reported the detection of the first Zika cases. In November 2015, Cape Verde and Suriname reported their first confirmed cases of the Zika virus. According to officials, the Brazilian outbreak is the largest recorded Zika outbreak in the world.
How did the Zika virus reach Brazil?
The Zika virus was first detected in Brazil in 2015. Experts suspect tourists from Asia or the South Pacific may have brought the exotic virus to Brazil during the 2014 Fifa World Cup. Brazilian states of Pernambuco, Sergipe, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Piauí, Ceará and Bahia have been affected by the outbreak with the north-eastern state of Pernambuco being the most severely affected.
The largest Zika outbreak in the world
In October 2015, the Brazilian Ministry of Health reported an unusual increase in cases of microcephaly following the Zika outbreak in the north-eastern states. As of 24 December 2015, 2,401 cases of microcephaly, including 40 deaths, have been notified in Brazil in 20 states. 134 were confirmed as being related to Zika virus and the rest are under investigation.
Brazil declares emergency: 2,400 infants brain-damaged
Brazil has declared a state of emergency as over 2,400 infants have been born with untreatable brain damage. According to a report issued by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the infants were born with the Zika virus. The ECDC reported that possible links between the Zika virus infection in pregnancy has been under investigation in Brazil since October 2015.
Puerto Rico confirms first case of Zika
Puerto Rico has reported its first case of the mosquito borne Zika virus. Puerto Rico's Health Secretary, Ana Rius, said that U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the single case of Zika on the island. She stated that the unidentified patient diagnosed with the virus, had not traveled recently and lives in the eastern part of the island.
Zika virus reaches US, 3 test positive in NY
The Zika virus has reached American shores with 3 people in New York testing positive for it. The New York State Department of Health said that all three had made travels outside of the United States where the mosquito-borne ailment is spreading rapidly. US authorities issued a travel warning to pregnant women against flying to 22 places in Latin America and the Caribbean.
WHO forms Zika response unit
The WHO announced the formation of a global unit to respond to the Zika virus, voicing fears that it could now spread across Africa and Asia. WHO expert Anthony Costello said they were worried Zika "could spread into areas of the world where the population may not be immune, through Africa and particularly south Asia." So far, 25 countries have reported instances of Zika.
Indian govt issues Zika related travel advisory
In view of the outbreak of Zika virus, India issued a travel advisory urging pregnant women to avoid traveling to affected countries. Union Health Minister J P Nadda advised pregnant to strictly follow personal protective measures, especially during day time, to prevent mosquito bites. He added that in case they fall sick within two weeks of return, they should report to the nearest hospital.
Zika: Over 100 US residents infected
A report by the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention stated that 116 people inside the US have been infected with the Zika virus. In a statement they said "During January 1, 2015-February 26, 2016, a total of 116 residents had laboratory evidence of recent Zika virus infection." They added that, those infected reported recent travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission.
WHO to monitor for Zika before Rio Olympics
The WHO stated that it would conduct a risk assessment to ascertain the possibility of the Zika virus being a threat to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Several athletes have withdrawn their participation from the Olympics due to fear of the disease. The WHO stated that they have set up an Emergency Committee to "consider the situation in Brazil including the Olympics."