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The curse of Zika Virus



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By  Gbenga Ogundare

Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate of 545 deaths for every 100,000 live births accounts for 14% of the global burden of maternal deaths-second only to India. Now that grim reality might be aggravated by the Zika virus festering across the world like the recent Ebola virus that almost deluge the entire Africa in 2015.

Zika Virus, a mosquito-borne pathogen that may cause birth defects when pregnant women are infected, has been “spreading explosively” in South and Central America, said the World Health Organization last Thursday. And if the February 1 emergency meeting of the global health body pans out well in Geneva, the Zika Virus outbreak would be declared a public health emergency of international concern which can help coordinate government responses to direct money and resources at the virus.

Zika virus, which has long been present in Africa and equatorial Asia, has spread to 23 countries in the Americas already, leaving the region with an estimated 3 million to 4 million cases of the virus.

Although researchers are still working to determine the exact link between the virus and birth defects such as microcephaly–which causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and potential developmental problems, but head of the global health body, Margaret Chan says “The possible links, only recently suspected, have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika, from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions.”

Zika virus usually causes mild symptoms, such as fever, rash and joint pain. And an estimated 80 percent of people infected have no symptoms.

While the condition usually begins in the first trimester of pregnancy, other infections can cause birth defects in the second and third trimester, researchers have revealed.

Last year, WHO was criticised for reacting too slowly to West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, which killed more than 10,000 people.