No deaths have ever been reported in direct relation to the Zika virus claims Dr. Li Ailan, director for health security and emergencies at WHO’s Western Pacific regional office.
Dr. Li believes that Zika will continue to spread in certain regions and that health officials are now preparing for greater complications, globally.
Official word from the Singaporean Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong states: “Over time, we expect Zika cases to emerge from more areas.”
This is a foreboding prediction for a virus that has already proven to be capable of spreading quickly, a virus not yet fully understood, and an epidemic in the making.
Although the symptoms of the Zika virus are generally mild in adults, its prevalence and dire effects on children has raised an international alarm.
The Zika virus is responsible for a rare medical condition known as microcephaly, a syndrome that causes babies to be born with smaller-than-average heads while in some cases the child’s brain may not develop normally.
Scientists in the Zika forests of Uganda first discovered the virus in a captured rhesus monkey in 1947. Researchers identified Zika in human hosts in 1952. The first large-scale outbreak of Zika was on the Pacific Island of Yap in 2007.
Researchers state that the patterns of transmission of the virus for those who travel in Zika-affected regions such as Africa and South America are of primary concern.
After decades of attempting to control the spread of another virus, Dengue fever, data shows that controlling the propagation of mosquito larvae should be the first stage tackled towards the prevention of a prolonged, future outbreak. Science has yet to fully achieve this foolproof, first step though.
Concerned over the entire process of successfully controlling the spread of the Zika virus, WHO Director General Margaret Chan stated in a recent address to a Western Pacific gathering, “Is this weak surveillance (of the Zika virus) an indication of population-wide immunity, or proof that the virus has somehow acquired greater epidemic potential?”
The Western Pacific region (which includes Australia, Cambodia, China, and Japan,) is the second most Zika-affected region on the globe. Almost a third of its 27 countries have reported Zika cases since 2007.
One worry for researchers and scientists studying the Zika virus is the high number of people who currently live in areas of the world where Zika may be very difficult to detect, develop an appropriate prevention methodology for, or deliver needed medical response to before the virus is further transmitted.
Recent studies are showing that Bangladesh, Vietnam, and the Philippines are hotspots for potential epidemics due to limited resources for both mosquito – breeding prevention and quick response, health services.
Today at least 65 nations have an ongoing Zika-transmission status.
Over two billion humans worldwide could be at risk of contracting the Zika virus.