International Medical Corps stands ready to assist Zika affected countries
Zika virus disease first emerged 50 years ago in monkeys found in Uganda’s Zika forest. The first human cases of the mosquito-borne disease were reported in 1952. Since then outbreaks have occurred in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
In February 2016, the World Health Organization designated the Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern, estimating up to 4 million people could be infected by year’s end. Since May 2016, almost 60 countries have reported local Zika transmissions. Though not yet scientifically proven, experts strongly suspect a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly - a birth defect in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age. With the possible risk to babies, the most recent CDC reports advise both men and women to refrain from sex or use proper protection throughout the duration of a pregnancy. So far an increase in microcephaly cases and other neonatal malformations has only been reported in Brazil and French Polynesia. A coordinated international response is needed to minimize the threat in affected countries and reduce the risk of further international spread.