Unlike Ebola, Zika does not spread from person to person, has a low mortality, and does not kill healthcare workers, therefore it warrants a different response, said the authors of the commentary.
Previously confined to Africa and Asia, the Zika virus reached the Americas in 2015, where it is currently causing an unprecedented epidemic in Brazil. The virus is mainly transmitted through mosquitoes, and most people infected with the virus do not show any symptoms. The remainder has mild symptoms such as fever, skin rash and headache.
Zika does not require healthcare worker mobilization, treatment centers, contact tracing or safe burial teams, said the authors. “Rather the immediate needs are about research to determine the cause of the microcephaly, diagnostic capacity building and sustained efforts to reduce the mosquito population,” the report said.
Brazil also saw unusual spike in reported cases of microcephaly. The connection between Zika and microcephaly has not yet been definitely established, but growing evidence suggests infections with the virus during pregnancy are associated with microcephaly.
While infections with Zika virus are currently largely concentrated in South and Central America, a rapid spread and mounting evidence of association with microcephaly means it could become a “global crisis,” according to the commentary.
The aedes egyptus, the mosquito that carries the virus, can be found in Southern Europe, Africa and the southern United States. There is additional concern that aedes albopictus, the highly aggressive tiger mosquito, could become a vector for Zika virus, further expanding areas at risk.
It is unclear how Zika virus spread to the Americas. “However, Zika could be here to stay,” the commentary said, comparing Zika to the West Nile Virus, another mosquito-borne disease unknown to the Western hemisphere until 1999 but now endemic in North America. Enditem