Three diseases dominated the world in 2016 – Zika, HIV and polio, reports VOA news. Despite the devastation and death caused by these viruses, scientific advances offer hope for protection and treatment in the years ahead.
The Zika virus originated in Uganda more than six decades ago. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and sexual intercourse with an infected person. Zika recently emerged in Brazil, then spread throughout the rest of South America.
Dr. Anthony Costello of the World Health Organization stated that even one affected child has a big impact on community resources and a family’s ability to cope. He said,
It is a public health problem of huge concern for the world. Sixty-nine countries have seen the Zika virus emerge in the last two years. We are talking about a virus that causes brain damage and potentially lifelong disability, which is a huge blow to families.
Many people infected by the Zika virus exhibit mild symptoms. As a result, mothers often do not know they are infected until their babies are born with microcephaly – meaning the children have abnormally small heads – which often signifies arrested brain development.
Currently, prevention is the key when it comes to Zika. There is no vaccine yet, so women are advised to avoid travel to areas where the virus is spreading.
Aside from Zika, Polio and HIV/AIDS have proven to be devastating in 2016. In Nigeria, the polio virus re-emerged in the northern part of the country, where it’s difficult to ensure that every child is vaccinated. Polio also spread along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Through the years, polio vaccination efforts have done well towards the elimination of the disease. Polio infections have decreased by 99 percent since 1988, from about 350,000 cases then to less than 36 cases in 2016.
HIV/AIDS has plagued many areas in the world, but this year, Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institutes of Health announced the start of a major trial of an experimental vaccine against the AIDS virus. If an effective vaccine is found, it could mean the end for a virus that has debilitated more than 70 million people and killed 35 million people over the last five decades.