ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Zika in an Age of Global Health Emergencies

The only way to check Zika is by controlling breeding sites of the vector, the aedes mosquito close to human habitations. It requires clean water to lay its eggs; checking it requires meticulous control of water sources inside and around homes, as well as spraying. When even a pampered New Delhi has been unable to achieve this control, there is little ground for optimism that it can happen elsewhere in India. The best scenario is for Zika to serve as a real wake-up call for community-based and community-empowered mosquito control programmes.

For the first time in its history, the World Health Organization (WHO) is simultaneously managing three international emergencies caused by infectious diseases. The three: Ebola, polio and Zika, are very different diseases, with differing global impacts, and at first sight it seems difficult to see why they have all been declared emergencies under the International Health Regulations (IHR).

Polio has been virtually eliminated from most of the world, and smoulders in small numbers only in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Ebola was devastating when it exploded in three poor conflict-devastated countries in Western Africa, but did not spread in epidemic form any further, has now died out. Zika, is the mildest of these diseases, with 80% of those infected having no symptoms, while others exhibit mild symptoms such as fever, rash and headaches.

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