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Editorial

Preparing Now in Anticipation of the Zika Virus

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After being confronted with heavy criticism for prolonging the declaration of the deadly Ebola outbreak as public emergency, the World Health Organization or WHO seems to be very relentless in being proactive against any outbreak the world-over.

Unlike its previous delayed response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, the WHO has already moved quickly in declaring a disease linked to the Zika virus in Latin America a global public health
emergency.

The WHO had justified declaring an emergency even amid uncertainties about the disease, saying it was time to take action. In view of the foregoing, such global public health emergency requires a united response, considering the fact that the virus was spreading far and fast, with devastating consequences.

According to an alert, the organization puts Zika – transmitted by daytime-active mosquitoes, is reported to be in the same category of concern as the deadly Ebola disease, meaning that research and aid will be fast-tracked to tackle the infection.

A New Dawn inquiry into the disease from multiple sources, including a recently released WHO alert, observed that in humans, the virus causes a mild illness known as Zika fever, Zika or Zika disease, which since the 1950s has been known to occur within a narrow equatorial belt from Africa to Asia. The World Health Organization has already warned that Zika is likely to “spread explosively” across nearly all of the Americas. More than 20 countries, including Brazil, are reporting cases.

Most infections are mild and cause few or no symptoms, although there have been some reported cases of a rare paralysis disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome. The virus migrates between humans through sexual contacts and can also cross the placenta, affecting an unborn fetus, with the bigger health threat believed to be in pregnancy, to the unborn child. We present this issue of Zika, owing to its similarity to the deadly Ebola virus disease, as well as its tropical nature, origin, rapidity and current areas on concentration.

Against this scaring backdrop, we are concerned about the threat of spreading to Africa again, especially West Africa, since it is transmitted between humans. At the core of our concern is the issue of preparation by the Government of Liberia (through the Health Ministry) and its ability to respond to any eventuality should the disease (as Ebola) spread to West Africa. In other words, amid the alarming global emergency, as declared by the WHO, what is Liberia currently doing in anticipation of any threat of an outbreak, with the experience of the deadly Ebola outbreak which killed more than four-thousand people in Liberia?

Can the Ministry of Health begin some low-skill awareness/sensitization activities now as a way of preparing Liberians? We are of the fervent belief that while Zika is still across the Atlantic, initially engaging in such proactive awareness/sensitization campaign among the population would do justice to our quest to prevent or deal with any future outbreak, including the Zika virus now spreading fast and far towards the north of the Americas – just across the Atlantic.

It would be in the best interest of us all if we were to begin preparing our minds and attitudes in anticipation of any future outbreak in Liberia. 

 

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