Can Usain bolt the Zika Virus in Brazil this Summer?

CaribZone Commentary: Aubrey Campbell –Wednesday, May 4nd

Good day folks and thanks for joining the conversation. It’s another brand new day and as some would say, the opportunity to make a honest dollar. To which I will add, Jehovah Jireh!

With the Penn Relays Carnival in the history books and out of the way, it is fair to say that the train has left the station, destination – Europe. Then, there will be two more stops in Jamaica and the final stop will be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August.

Brazil now becomes the focus of much attention as the host of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, the healthy, beautiful part. But according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is quite a bit of second and third guessing, going on at the moment.

Here’s why and as reported by the BBC (London), WHO has declared the Zika virus a global public health emergency, with Brazil at the epicenter!

Everything else aside, the big, gold medal question is how/will the Zika Virus impact the staging of the Games of the modern Olympiad.

See if you can find an answer in the text below..

The infection is suspected of leading to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains.

Some areas have declared a state of emergency, doctors have described it as “a pandemic in progress” and some are even advising women in affected countries to delay getting pregnant.

But there is much we do not know in this emerging infection. Deaths are rare and only one-in-five people infected is thought to develop symptoms, which include; a mild fever, red/sore eyes (conjunctivitis), headache, joint pain and a rash.

A rare nervous system disorder, Guillain-Barre syndrome, that can cause temporary paralysis has been linked to the infection.

There is no vaccine or drug treatment so patients are advised to rest and drink plenty of fluids.

But the biggest concern is the impact it could have on babies developing in the womb and the surge in microcephaly, a condition when a baby is born with an abnormally small head, as their brain has not developed properly.

The severity varies, but it can be deadly if the brain is so underdeveloped that it cannot regulate the functions vital to life.

Children that do survive face intellectual disability and development delays. It can be caused by infections such as rubella, substance abuse during pregnancy or genetic abnormalities. Brazil had fewer than 150 cases of microcephaly in the whole in 2014.But more than 4,700 cases have been reported since 22 October 2015, with 404 confirmed and 3,670 still being investigated.

The link with Zika has not been confirmed, but the WHO says it is “strongly suspected”. Some babies who died had the virus in their brain and it has been detected in placenta and amniotic fluid too.

Cases of microcephaly have been centered in north-east Brazil, but the outbreak has affected more than 20 countries with Antigua reporting its first known case, this week.

So where are the other cases of microcephaly?

The outbreak started in Brazil before spreading elsewhere, and the World Health Organization says there will be a lag of several months to know if pregnant women in these newly affected countries, including Jamaica, are affected too.

There have been suggestions that Zika led to a rise in birth defects after the 2013 outbreak in French Polynesia.

The link to microcephaly is not certain, but some governments have advised women to delay getting pregnant until more is known. Experts now believe the virus is linked to a broader set of complications in pregnancy, including miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and eye problems.

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says Zika lingers in the blood for about a week and can be spread by sexual intercourse.

“The virus will not cause infections in a baby that is conceived after the virus is cleared from the blood,” it says.

“There is currently no evidence that Zika-virus infection poses a risk of birth defects in future pregnancies.”

The World Health Organization is worried that Zika is spreading far and fast, with devastating consequences.

Declaring Zika as a “public health emergency of international concern” singles the disease out as a serious global threat. It puts it in the same category of importance as Ebola.

Unlike Ebola, where the focus was on boots on the ground, with Zika the attention will be on understanding the link with microcephaly.

The WHO will coordinate countries’ health agencies to conduct trials to determine the risk. It will also encourage efforts to stop the mosquito that spreads the disease as well as finding a treatment or a vaccine to stop the virus.

The work will depend on money donated by countries. Zika was first identified in monkeys in Uganda in 1947.

The first human case was detected in Nigeria in 1954, and there have been further outbreaks in Africa, South East Asia and the Pacific Islands. Most were small and Zika has not previously been considered a major threat to human health.

But in May 2015, it was reported in Brazil and has spread rapidly.

It has since also been reported in: Barbados, Bolivia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname and Venezuela.

The re-emergence of the virus has Caribbean regional health authorities in a quandary, largely because of laxed public health guidelines and shrinking government resources at a time when environmental health and climate change are at the top of every agenda.

The Zika virus is spread by Aedes mosquitoes. They are found throughout the Americas except for Canada and Chile where it is too cold for them to survive. If they drink the blood of an infected person they can then infect subsequent people they bite.

It is unclear for how long someone can transmit the virus after being infected. The Caribbean has a long ways to go as proper trash disposal was never a concern until now!

Is your backyard a breeding ground for mosquitoes? The little you do today, could very well impact the Games later this summer!

That’s today’s conversation. And while you are at it, share your thoughts as you have the last word, always.


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