Geneva, 28 January 2016: Urgent action is needed to contain the Zika virus disease that is now present in 22 countries and territories in the Americas, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warned today.
A partnership approach - where Governments, donors and civil society organizations work together to improve environmental sanitation alongside an integrated vector control strategy - will be needed if Zika and other viral diseases spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito is to be contained.
“The only way to stop Zika virus disease is to control the mosquito vectors or completely interrupt the human-to-vector contact, and do so alongside measures to reduce poverty,” said Mr Walter Cotte, Director of the IFRC’s Americas Region.
“Our decades of experience in preventing and responding to outbreaks of dengue, malaria, Chagas’ disease and chikungunya have taught us that environmental sanitation, strengthening community health systems, and public communication around hygiene save lives. Community-based Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers can rapidly deliver the crucial health messages that allow communities to make informed decisions that reduce their risks, such as eliminating mosquito breeding sites.”
While between 60 and 80 per cent of infected people do not show any symptoms, the remainder can develop a mild fever, rashes, muscle pain and headaches. However, in November 2015, the Brazilian Ministry of Health noted a potential causal relationship between Zika and an increase in neurological conditions.
Mr Cotte said: “Half a century ago, the Pan-American Health Organization was able to reduce dengue in the Americas, and even eliminate it in some areas, through a vector control strategy. But the mosquito returned, and the global number of dengue cases increased from 15,000 per year in the 1960s to 390 million today. We cannot allow this to continue. And we must not allow it to happen with Zika.”
Note to editors:
Zika virus disease is named after the Zika forest in Uganda, where it was discovered in 1947 – first in a monkey, and then in the Aedes africanus mosquito the following year. The first human case was recorded in Nigeria in 1952. South America reported its first cases of Zika in 2015. There are two strains of the virus – the African lineage, which emerged from Uganda, and the Asian lineage that is spreading in the Americas and the Pacific.
To encourage partnership approaches to reducing vulnerability, the IFRC has launched the One Billion Coalition for Resilience - an initiative bringing together aid organizations, Governments, the private sector, academia and community groups to encourage one billion people to reduce their vulnerability to natural and other hazards by 2025.
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