A new epidemic?

The World Health Organization declared the Zika-linked health condition a global emergency


A municipal worker fumigates inside a building to help control the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in Caracas. Photo: Marco Bello/Reuters
A municipal worker fumigates inside a building to help control the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in Caracas. Photo: Marco Bello/Reuters

After Ebola hit the Atlantic’s east coast a couple of years ago, fear of a new illness caused by the Zika virus is now roiling its western shores. In an emergency meeting this week, the World Health Organization declared the Zika-linked health condition a global emergency.

The virus with no current vaccine spreads primarily through the Aedes aegypti mosquito vector and is expected to affect four million people by the end of the year. Although its effects have been mild in many instances, it can be very dangerous for pregnant women, causing microcephaly (a neonatal malfunction) in the unborn child.

India may be a long way from the Americas, but with global travel, that is not a certain barrier. The health ministry has done well to sound the alert. With the Aedes aegypti common in India, a focus on better sanitation facilities and water supply is important, alongside other measures.