By Trevor Sipos
With the current public health emergency of the Zika virus and the still recent epidemic of Ebola, more needs to be done to counter the threat of emerging infectious diseases. In fact, we are seeing more infectious diseases appear than ever before. Diseases such as Swine Flue, Mers, Zika, Sars and many others have only been known since post-1970. These emerging diseases are a direct consequence of the frequency that we travel and the close proximity in which we live to one another and animals.
The Zika, a disease spread by an infected Aedes species mosquito and can lead to birth defects in pregnant women, has infected an estimated 440,000-1,300,000 people already. The outbreak started in Brazil last May and since has spread to Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela and other Latin American and Caribbean countries.
There are currently many public and private entities developing vaccines for the Zika virus. Unfortunately, major drug companies are hesitant to invest in vaccines for infectious diseases like Zika because of a lack of financial incentives. There are few realistic ways to commercialize a Zika vaccine. Therefore, in order to combat infectious diseases, we need to be prepared in advance. That means developing methods for early detection of diseases that could turn into future crises.
How can you help? By assisting the organizations who are fighting Zika. There are many NGO’s that work in Global Health. Save the Children, in particular, is working to educate people in South America on how to avoid contracting Zika. Some other organizations that are helping include the World Health Organization, International Federation of Red Cross and Unicef. Google has given Unicef a million dollar grant and has sent its own employees to help research where potential disease outbreaks could occur. Let’s raise awareness for Zika and help those organizations trying to stop the spread