The World Health Organization (WHO) just lifted the 9-month-old “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” declaration of the Zika virus. Now, the WHO also noted, however, that even though they removed it’s “emergency” status, they are not downgrading the potential threat level of the virus. The purpose of raising it to emergency level served its purpose, which was to bring the world together so it can make a more urgent and coordinated response across the globe. The clusters of infected areas were beginning to rapidly appear and the world needed a swift boost in research on how to counteract it. WHO emergency declarations are intended as a way to motivate governments around the world to take serious action in order to try and curb epidemics. However, the virus is continuing to spread and appears to be settling in for the long haul, meaning it’s time to prepare for a more long-term response to eliminating the virus.
The agency claims that the remaining knowledge we need to gain about the Zika virus would be better gained through sustained research. The head of the WHO emergency committee on the Zika virus, Dr. David Heymann, stated that the Zika virus is no longer an emergency, but rather a “a significant and enduring public health challenge.” The change from the initial emergency phase to this new second phase of fighting against the Zika virus will really involve the world coming to terms with the fact that the Zika virus is a long-term problem that we will have to deal with for years to come. It’s time for us humans to realize this isn’t going away any time soon, and we now need to prepare for an extended war against the Zika virus across the globe instead of the mere isolated attacks and battles we’ve so far waged against this disease. Think of it as WWI against mosquitos.
What kind of changes to research and funding do you think this change in status for the Zika virus will bring about?