Monday, 7 March 2016

The looming threat of Zika

Imagine a world without borders and looming enemies. The thought paints a scary imagery in the head, something one would never want to imagine ever. But who is to say that this thought could never become a reality? In fact if necessary steps aren’t taken, there is no turning your backs to the situation. The enemy in this case is the reappearance of the Zika virus.

This mosquito borne virus first was discovered in monkeys in 1947 in Uganda's Zika Forest. Up until now, the virus was reported in Africa, South Asia and Polynesia, but now it's also being found in Central and South America. A shocking number, approximately one in five people infected with the virus shows symptoms. What is even more alarming is the advice given by El Salvador’s health department, asking all women of reproductive age to delay pregnancy until 2018 due to concerns about possible birth defects linked to the virus. So far, the country disclosed it had found 492 Zika cases.

A State of Chaos

It has spread to 20 countries and not a single country has a solution. Currently there is no medication or vaccine available to treat or stop the virus. Those who are sickened with the virus, can only be provided with supportive care. According to media reports, the search for a vaccine is being led by scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch but they warn that although a vaccine could be ready for testing in two years, it may be another decade for it to be approved by regulators. Imagine what the use of a vaccine is if it cannot be administered when it’s needed the most.

The apathy of the situation has further highlighted the debacle of the vaccine market and the need for stringent measures to control such outcomes. Case in point, the Ebola crisis. Although the initial research for the Ebola vaccine was published in 2003, no concrete steps were taken. The research had to wait a decade to get noticed and it was only after the Ebola outbreak in 2014 did the US government took control and contributed more than $70M to develop the vaccine.

Beacon of Hope

Development of drugs and vaccines require financial investments and what every nation needs to ask itself is whether or not it has sufficient funding provisions for sustaining decade of vaccine targets and objectives. Added to that, another facet to analyse is efforts to keep vaccines affordable.

Mankind is the backbone for its nation and it is the duty of every authority in the country to respect and initiate necessary steps to safeguard them.

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Hilleman Laboratories is a global vaccine research & development organization focused on making affordable vaccines using innovation to address gaps that exist in low resource settings. Hilleman Labs acts as a catalyst in bridging the gap between academic research and product development by targeting novel vaccines and increasing the efficiency of existing vaccines. Know More

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