How South Sudan Can Fight The Global Zika Health Crisis
- Travel-associated Zika virus disease cases reported: 312 (27 pregnant women, 6 sexually transmission, 1 Guillain-Barré syndrome)
- Locally acquired vector-borne cases reported: 0
The Zika virus has gained international attention with recent outbreaks in South America spreading to the United States. Transmitted by mosquitos, the virus is known to cause symptoms which may include: fever, rash, headache, and joint pain. Pregnant women are most at risk for adverse effects caused by the virus. Microcephaly, a neurological disorder that impairs brain development, can be fatal for infants. The growing number of cases of microcephaly in Brazil has caused increasing concern from health officials because of its link to the Zika virus.
“The Zika virus has yet to become a major threat for South Sudan, but the country should not rule out the potential of globalization,” said Jacob Atem. “South Sudan does not have a precautionary plan in place, and I believe a clear plan is needed to prepare for the possibility of an outbreak.”
Although South Sudan is not currently under threat of a Zika virus outbreak, the SSHCO clinic in Maar has the capacity to mitigate such risks and maintains strict procedures for addressing similar outbreaks. Clinicians can determine if an outbreak is approaching by referring to patient symptom records in advance.
There currently are no treatments available for the Zika virus. Therefore, prevention is the primary method for combatting the virus. “If you prevent mosquito larvae, you are preventing the spread of many diseases,” said Jacob. The prevention of Zika will also supplement the prevention of many other mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue, and yellow fever.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are tirelessly working to provide the necessary medical and technical expertise needed to prevent the further spread of the Zika virus. In Brazil, the need for entomologic expertise is needed to create more reasonable solutions than pregnancy avoidance. The task of prevention must be accompanied by a comprehensive plan. “If you are not prepared, you are going to have to invest all of your resources,” said Jacob. The most significant investment should be made in preventative measures in anticipation of the threat of pathogen diseases.
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