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World Health Organization: Fighting Zika is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

30 Nov, 2016

By: Michael Popke

Zika is not going away. The World Health Organization delivered that message a week before Thanksgiving, leaving travelers and travel planners with a little less to be thankful for this year.

When reporting the WHO’s announcement, MIT Technology Review used a sports-centric headline (“In the Battle Against Zika, Researchers Prepare for a Marathon”) to suggest “that the virus will be beaten by a steady, sustained effort — not quick fixes. “We are not downgrading the importance of Zika,” Pete Salama, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, told Science. “By placing it as a longer-term program of work, we are saying Zika is here to stay and WHO’s response is here to stay.”

Thus, WHO is no longer classifying the Zika virus as an international public health emergency.

In October, the so-called “Zika zone” in the Wynwood Arts District of downtown Miami was eliminated, and last week, Florida officials removed part of Miami Beach from an active Zika transmission zone. But Florida has been hit hard by the mosquito-borne virus, and officials there remain vigilant.

As Reuters reports:

The area of active transmission in Miami Beach is now about 1.5 square miles. The newly cleared area covers about three square miles, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. State officials believe Zika is still being transmitted in another small area of Miami-Dade County, in addition to the remaining section of Miami Beach. Mosquitoes began spreading the virus this summer in Florida, bringing local Zika transmission to the continental United States. “Until we have a vaccine, this is going to be something we’re going to deal with,” Scott said at a news conference in Miami Beach.

Between Jan. 1, 2015, and Nov. 16, 2016, a total of 139 locally acquired mosquito-borne cases of Zika were reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus is much more common in Latin America and the Caribbean; Zika was initially identified in Brazil in 2015.

“Nearly 30 countries have reported birth defects linked to Zika,” according to the Associated Press. “WHO says more than 2,100 cases of nervous-system malformations have been reported in Brazil alone.”

Serious birth defects and mild flu-like symptoms have been linked to the virus. For more on what Zika could mean to the world of sports tourism, read our report (and this one, too) from this summer.

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