Fear of the Zika Virus Challenges Global Healthcare Organizations

As the Zika virus spreads, so too does the concern among public health officials. This may the greatest threat in a generation for some regions, and they are urgently seeking ways to stop it. One can hardly see the news without a report of cases of the virus being detected in some new location or country, and the devastating effects it has on the unborn.

The virus is spread by the one creature on the planet responsible for more death and human suffering than any other. That creature is the tiny mosquito: it’s estimated that 2-3 million deaths are caused by them each year around the world.

ZIKA VIRUSAlthough Zika was first discovered in Uganda in 1947, periodic outbreaks of the virus have mostly occurred in areas of Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and tropical Africa. Due to the recent rapid spread of the disease in over 30 countries, it is now considered a pandemic.

The symptoms of the Zika virus itself are mostly mild, and last anywhere from a few days to a week. Many who contract the virus, in fact, never even realize they have Zika, mistaking their symptoms for a cold, the flu, or something else. The main concern with Zika is not the mild, short-term effects of the virus itself.

Rather, it is the potentially deadly effects the virus has on developing fetuses when an infected mother passes the virus to her unborn child. In many cases the virus kills the developing child, resulting in miscarriage.

Those babies who survive Zika exposure in the womb, however, are being born with a disfiguring illness known as microcephaly. In addition to causing a smaller-than-normal brain and head, the neurodevelopmental disorder also causes severely impaired intellectual development, seizures, and a shortened lifespan.

Although no vaccine currently exists for the virus, that doesn’t mean steps aren’t being taken to address the issue. The following are measures that countries are currently taking to either slow or prevent the spread of the deadly disease:

Raising Global Awareness about the Zika Virus

On Saturday, February 13, 2016, Brazil launched an all-out assault on the mosquitoes that carry the deadly Zika virus. The assault didn’t involve the direct killing of the insects, although that was the ultimate goal. No direct military firepower was used, although the military was involved. It was an unconventional assault that was mostly about getting the word out.

Using thousands of soldiers, Brazil’s military went door-to-door throughout the country handing out informational leaflets and insecticide. The leaflets encouraged residents to do everything they possibly could to eliminate the tiny insect. Recommended measures included spraying the insecticide around their homes, using mosquito netting while sleeping, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and other measures. Most importantly, Brazil got the word out that mosquitoes were transmitting Zika and that everyone had a role to play in stopping the spread of the deadly virus.

Stopping the Spreak of Zika by Draining Pools of Standing Water

Most would never guess the humble automobile tire would play a role in the spread of the Zika virus, but it certainly does. Old tires that are left lying around outside are notorious for collecting small pools of water. And mosquitoes find these tiny bodies of standing water irresistible places to lay their eggs.

Puerto Rico, which recently declared Zika a public health emergency, is waging war on the mosquitoes that carry the disease by draining the small bodies of water where the insects breed. One of the chief culprits is old tires, which are found lying all around the island. They are found outside people’s homes, in dumps, and elsewhere. To combat the U.S. territory’s tire problem, emergency legislation was recently passed to collect and dispose of the tires. Crews are also working tirelessly to drain other small standing bodies of water, wherever they are found.

Keeping Zika Out of the Blood Supply

In the United States measures are being taken to keep Zika out of the blood supply. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recommending U.S. citizens who have traveled to areas where the Zika virus is present to wait at least four weeks before donating blood to be absolutely certain they are not carriers. There have been no reports of Zika being found in the blood supply to date, but the FDA is taking no chances. The four-week waiting period is considered more than sufficient to ensure the virus is no longer present in a person’s body after returning from an area of concern.

Family Planning to Prevent Spreading Zika During Pregnancy

Due to the severe effects of the neuro-developmental disorder microcephaly that are passed from expecting mothers infected with the Zika virus to their unborn babies, public health officials in several countries are encouraging the use of family planning practices to completely avoid pregnancy until the Zika pandemic ends.

In El Salvador, for example, public health officials are strongly encouraging postponing having children until 2018 at the earliest. This public health policy is being echoed in Colombia and Jamaica.

Avoiding Travel to Areas of Concern

One way to stop the spread of Zika to other countries is to either encourage or prevent citizens from traveling to countries where the virus is currently active. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believes future outbreaks in the country will be from citizens traveling to countries where the virus is present and then bringing it home with them. Although the United States is not currently preventing anyone from traveling to countries with active Zika outbreaks, the CDC is strongly encouraging pregnant women and women of childbearing age to avoid traveling to these countries until the pandemic ends.

Last-Ditch Solutions 

The Zika virus has become such a pervasive problem that some are calling for “Hail Mary” proposals to stop the spread of the virus. One such proposal involves releasing genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild that have been designed to sterilize and perhaps even eliminate the entire mosquito population. Another proposal is to bring back DDT, a powerful insecticide, to wipe out as much of the mosquito population as possible. These proposals are controversial, of course, and are not without their critics. Completely eliminating the mosquito population, for example, could prove detrimental to some species of freshwater fish that feed off of mosquito larvae. And DDT has been blamed for both threatening and potentially eradicating bird populations.

Looking Ahead – Working on Vaccines for the Zika Virus

Although several companies are currently working on Zika vaccines, large-scale trials are at least 18 months away. In the interim, combating the spread of the deadly virus hinges primarily on mass public education efforts. Just as Brazil has already proven, it will literally take an army to get the word out about how the virus is spread and steps individuals and communities can take to decrease the mosquito population and protect themselves until a working vaccine is finally ready.

Click below to view our latest infographic covering the Zika Virus and how to protect your health

Facts About Zika Infographic Preview

Sources:

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/zika-virus-outbreak/zika-might-cause-worse-birth-defects-feared-n525861
http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/13/zika-2/
http://news.yahoo.com/doctors-convinced-world-stop-ignoring-145055365.html
http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/02/29/468266024/puerto-rico-races-to-stop-zikas-mosquitoes-before-rains-begin
http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/17/health/zika-blood-donors-fda-guidelines/
http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/24/health/zika-cases-uk/
http://www.vox.com/2016/1/27/10838286/how-to-stop-zika-virus-outbreak
http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/09/health/zika-vaccine-years-away/index.html

Back to Main Blog Page

Ready to learn more?

Fill out the form below to start receiving information from multiple schools

About You

Educational Info

Educational Info

Select up to 3 schools from the list.

Have You Taken the GRE?*

Yes
No

Military Affiliation?*

Yes
No
Required*

Schools with Online MPH Programs
A.T. Still University Online MPH
Benedictine University Online MPH
Concordia University of Nebraska Online MPH
Creighton University Online MPH
Des Moines University Online MPH
East Tennessee State University Online MPH
Emory University Online MPH
Florida A&M University Online MPH
George Washington University Online MPH
Idaho State University Online MPH
Johns Hopkins University Online MPH
Liberty University Online MPH
Loma Linda University Online MPH
Loyola University Online MPH
Medical College of Wisconsin Online MPH
New Mexico State University Online MPH
New York Medical College Online MPH
Northern Illinois University Online MPH
Nova Southeastern University Online MPH
OHSU-PSU School of Public Health Online MPH
Rivier University Online MPH Programs
San Jose State University Online MPH
Simmons College Online MPH Program
Tulane University Online MPH
University at Albany-SUNY Online MPH
University of Alabama Online MPH
University of Alaska Online MPH
University of California Berkeley Online MPH
University of Florida Online MPH
University of Illinois Online MPH
University of Massachusetts-Amherst Online MPH
University of Minnesota Online MPH
University of Montana Online MPH
University of Nebraska Medical Center Online MPH
University of New England Online MPH
University of North Carolina Online MPH
University of North Texas Online MPH
University of South Carolina Online MPH
University of South Florida Online MPH
University of Southern California Online MPH
University of West Florida Online MPH
West Virginia University Online MPH

Are you ready to learn more? Request Info from Schools

RECENT BLOG POSTS

What Can I Accomplish with a Master’s Degree in Public Health?

What Can I Accomplish with a Master’s Degree in Public Health?

March 9, 2017, By mphadmin

Where Can I Earn an Online MPH in Only One Year?

Where Can I Earn an Online MPH in Only One Year?

March 9, 2017, By mphadmin

Zika and the 2016 Olympics – Is it Safe to Go?

Zika and the 2016 Olympics – Is it Safe to Go?

March 7, 2017, By mphadmin

What the Sustainable Development Goals Mean for Public Health

What the Sustainable Development Goals Mean for Public Health

March 7, 2017, By mphadmin