Brazil has declared an end to its public health emergency over the mosquito-borne Zika virus last May 11, Thursday.
The Latin American country called off the emergency 18 months after an unprecedented rise in Zika cases at home, where the outbreak was shown to result in severe birth defects such as microcephaly. This condition causes babies to be born with abnormally small skulls.
Brazil informed the World Health Organization (WHO), which lifted its own international emergency back in November. It cited “the decrease in cases of Zika and microcephaly throughout the country,” according to a statement from its health ministry.
The health ministry noted that from January to April this year, there were nearly 8,000 Zika cases, a drop of 95.3 percent on the same period last year when there were more than 170,000 documented cases.
The end of the emergency, however, does not equate to ending vigilance and offering the right assistance, health ministry official Adeilson Cavalcante emphasized.
Revisiting Zika Scare
The Zika virus was reported in dozens of countries shortly after it exploded in Brazil, prompting many travelers to cancel trips to Zika-infected destinations. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued warnings for pregnant women, or those planning to conceive, against traveling to affected places.
Zika concerns were magnified by issues that the virus would spread even more via sexual transmission, or having sexual contact with an infected individual.
The scare appeared to peak just as Brazil, the center of the outbreak, was preparing for the 2016 Olympics it was hosting. The games were feared to further spread the virus, and countries around the world were reporting increased infections.
How Brazil Responded To The Outbreak
Positioned in the middle of the 2016 outbreak, Brazil launched a comprehensive mosquito eradication campaign throughout the country, an effort that the health ministry credited for reducing Zika cases.
Cavalcante said that the government agency and its partner organizations will continue implementing their policy of fighting Zika, dengue, as well as chikungunya.
All three infectious diseases are transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. People infected with Zika usually suffer mild, flu-like symptoms and recover quickly, while pregnant women can give birth to babies with severe defects.
Zika In The United States
The WHO, saying that the virus is “here to stay,” urged everyone to keep fighting the battle against the disease.
U.S. states have ramped up efforts to fight Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses as the warmer months approached. The virus is most common in some states such as Georgia, Texas, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, where the mosquito is rather prevalent.
A recent study concluded that even a mild Zika outbreak cost the United States dearly, or more than $183 million in medical bills and productivity losses. A more pronounced outbreak, on the other hand, would likely translate to $1.2 billion or more in financial impact.
Last year, the U.S. Congress assigned $1.1 billion for efforts toward mosquito control and vaccine creation, along with emergency healthcare for Puerto Rico.