Zika Strategic Response Plan Quarterly Update, July - September 2016
WHO EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAMME
On 1 September 2016, the Fourth IHR Emergency Committee on Zika virus and associated complications was convened. Having considered the evidence presented, the Committee agreed that Zika virus infection and its associated congenital and other neurological disorders continue to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. This is because Zika virus continues to expand to new geographic areas and because we face persisting and new gaps in understanding Zika and its consequences. The Committee applauded the considerable efforts that have been taken to date by Member States, WHO and partners in response to this emergency and emphasized the need for a better scientific understanding of Zika virus epidemiology.
Zika virus continues to spread geographically to areas where competent mosquitoes are present. From 2015 onwards, mosquito-borne transmission has been reported in four out of six WHO regions: Africa, the Americas, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific. Countries in the Western Pacific Region continue to report new Zika virus cases as seen in Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Viet Nam. Prior to this update, only the Western Pacific Region and the Region of the Americas had documented Zika-associated microcephaly. On 1 October, Thailand notified WHO of two babies born with microcephaly associated with Zika virus, the first such cases in the WHO South-East Asia Region. In Africa, Guinea-Bissau is currently investigating 5 cases of microcephaly to determine if these are associated with Zika virus.
The geographic spread of Zika, although anticipated by WHO, raises pressing questions, especially for women and couples planning or expecting a child. Critical questions for scientists and policy-makers include the public health implications of Zika endemicity and population immunity, the potential of different Zika virus strains to cause complications, and a better understanding of the full spectrum of congenital Zika virus syndrome.
These issues are part of the WHO-coordinated Zika virus research agenda, which aims to generate the scientific evidence needed to strengthen essential public health guidance and the associated actions of WHO, partners and Member States. Researchers need to work with responders to identify critical research needs and translate the findings into improved public health actions.
As part of this far-reaching collaborative effort, many partners have played an active role in contributing to the global Strategic Response Plan for Zika, through the implementation of a range of activities in the areas of detection, prevention, care and support and research across the globe. This quarterly report update compiles examples from the past few months from partners across the globe. While the overarching strategy developed and agreed with partners in June holds strong, it is critical that we continue to sustain these efforts as part of a longer term strategy focused on strengthening preparedness in the most vulnerable countries to manage Zika and associated consequences. WHO and partners will continue to work with Member States to ensure care and support to families affected by Zika virus, to drive forward all aspects of the research agenda and to strengthen health systems to deal with this and future outbreaks.
I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and thank all the partners involved for their collaboration and considerable efforts in response to this global challenge to public health.
Dr Peter J. Salama
WHO Health Emergencies Programme