The rapid spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus is the latest major challenge to global public health. While the outbreak is currently most serious in Brazil, causing thousands of birth defects, it has already arrived in the U.S. and is expected to continue its explosive growth. There is currently no vaccine or cure for the illness. Researchers are calling upon the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare Zika a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern," the first step in a coordinated response to the disease. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, has said her organization "learnt lessons of humility" because of their slow response to Ebola in 2014, convening a meeting today to discuss next steps. However, Michael Osterholm, PhD, director of Consortium member the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Prevention (CIDRAP), points to the differences between Ebola, which is passed from person to person contact, and Zika, which is mosquito-borne. In Zika's case, he notes, mosquito abatement efforts will need to be part of the effort to control the disease. Read Osterholm's comments here and here.
Thursday, January 28, 2016