Zika Virus: World Health Organization Just Weeks Away from Test, Vaccine Still at Least 18 Months Away

The Zika virus has spread rapidly, with several cases now reported in the United States. The most dangerous to unborn babies, the Zika virus has instilled fear in pregnant women in countries affected ...
Zika Virus: World Health Organization Just Weeks Away from Test, Vaccine Still at Least 18 Months Away
Written by Kimberly Ripley

The Zika virus has spread rapidly, with several cases now reported in the United States. The most dangerous to unborn babies, the Zika virus has instilled fear in pregnant women in countries affected by the disease, as well as in those who may need to travel to such countries.

According to a report from the New York Times, the World Health Organization claims to be just weeks away from a test to determine whether someone has contracted the Zika virus. They are still at least 18 months away from a vaccine that can prevent it, however.

On February 1, the W.H.O. declared the Zika virus a global public health emergency. This is only the fourth time ever the organization has raised this alert. The major concerns of the Zika virus are its suspected links to two neurological disorders–microcephaly, where babies are born with smaller than normal heads and, in most cases brain damage–and Guillain-Barré syndrome, an illness in which the immune system attacks part of the nervous system, causing paralysis that can last for weeks.

Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny is the W.H.O. assistant director general for health systems and innovation. She spoke recently about the Zika virus at a news conference in Geneva.

“It is important to point out, however, that none of these tests have been independently validated and none have regulatory approval,” she said. She added, however, that “we are talking weeks, not years,” for the first commercial and independently validated tests to become available.

“In spite of this encouraging landscape, vaccines are at least 18 months away from large-scale trials,” she added.

Aside from the aforementioned risks from the Zika virus, it causes no lasting harm. Those afflicted with the Zika virus typically experience fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes.

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