Prevention is better than cure
By : Saad Al-Dosari
At a time when the world, particularly Saudi Arabia, was busy fighting MERS, reports about the emergence of another dangerous virus is doing the rounds. The name of this new threat is Zika.
It is not a new virus. It was first discovered in a rhesus monkey near Lake Victoria in the Zika Forest, Uganda. The infection usually comes with no or very mild symptoms that do not go beyond a fever. It was found in a human for the first time in 1952, also in Uganda. No one can exactly determine with a high level of certainty when and where it began to infect humans. According to some reports, it may have been circulating among monkeys and other animals in the jungle for thousands of years, making the jump to humans when they got to be too close, too often to these animals. It is usually treated by advising patients to take proper rest and to consume lots of liquids, and it is not yet prevented by drugs or vaccines. The virus has been known in the narrow equatorial belt from Africa to Asia, but since 2014, the virus is becoming more active and had spread eastward across the Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia, then to Easter Island and in 2015 to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America, where the Zika outbreak is reaching pandemic levels.
Just a few days ago, the World Health Organization declared Zika virus as a public health emergency. The declaration, made by the WHO Director Margaret Chan, will trigger funding for research to try to establish whether the Zika virus, spread by mosquitoes, is responsible for the large numbers of babies born with abnormally small heads in Brazil as reported by the Guardian.
Many countries where the Zika virus infections are on the rise are asking their residents to delay any planned pregnancies.
Now, what does that mean to Saudi Arabia? The very short version of the answer is that we need to be ready, Zika virus could come to our territories, and mainly, May Allah forbid, through our students studying on scholarships in America or Europe.
The first Zika virus case was reported in Texas, US, in the middle of January.
The virus seems to be moving east toward Europe. Spain has confirmed that a pregnant woman has been diagnosed with the virus, the first such case in Europe as reported by the BBC. The Spanish health ministry said the woman had recently returned from Colombia.
So what can we do to prepare ourselves to fight this virus? First of all, we need to create awareness about it. The health authorities with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could start an awareness campaign targeting our students in the US and Europe about the virus.
Then, we need to join efforts with the rest of the world through the WHO especially in the area of control and prevention. What kind of test is required to diagnose the infection?
Finally, and since the virus is linked to mosquitos, we may really need to seriously consider to revise our plans to control the spread of mosquitos.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in the Column section are their own and do not reflect RiyadhVision’s point-of-view.