The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently warned about an outbreak of microcephaly on newborns in Latin America which is linked to the Zika virus.

The U.N. is mobilizing Latin American communities to stop the spread of the Zika virus that could reach the African and Asian continent which are the two with the world’s highest birth rates. The Zika virus has infected thousands of people in about 25 countries and it could bring terrible effects for parents who have suffered the disease.

Photo: LiveScience
Photo: LiveScience

According to a WHO article, since the virus arrived to Latin America, it has been associated with an increase of babies born with abnormally small heads and sometimes with the syndrome of Guillain-Barré, which is a condition that makes the immune system attack the nervous system and sometime causes paralysis. This relationship between Zika and birth defects has not been established, but is strongly suspected.

Margaret Chan, Director of WHO, called for an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee to discuss about the virus and the increase of neurological disorders and malformations on babies. The Committee was held on  Monday 1 February in Geneva.

The Zika virus itself is not a real threat. Its symptoms are mild and are not life threatening. The actual problem is that it is suspected of causing children to be born with microcephaly. More than 4,000 cases of babies with this condition  have been found in Brazil. This situation becomes a matter of public health and international emergency.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine available for pregnant women to be protected againts the virus. So WHO recommeds communities to avoid people from being bitten by the transmitter mosquito as a way to fight the disease and protect pregnant women.

“One should keep in mind that developing a vaccine against the Zika virus could take years. I think we have to proceed with the view that the vaccine is maybe years not months away. But getting diagnostics is extremely important to look at public health issues here, and generally speaking diagnostics are developed more rapidly than vaccines,” Anthony Costello, a WHO expert and paediatrician, said.

French drugmaker Sanofi has launched a project to develop a vaccine against the Zika virus. Sanofi said its Sanofi Pasteur vaccines division would use its expertise in developing vaccines for similar viruses such as yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and, most recently, dengue.

Sources: Voice of America