Today, H.E. Oh Joon began the briefing with introducing its agenda concerning the need for international cooperation and building preparedness in the face of the public health crisis due to the rise of the Zika virus and cited possible contributing factors to the outbreak, including climate change. Then, Dr. Menabde and Dr. Espinal spoke of the WHO’s and PAHO’s objective of investigating and responding to microcephaly and other neurological disorders related to the Zika outbreak by enhancing surveillance measures to monitor the spread of the virus, communicating with communities to dispel stereotypes about the virus and encourage safe sex among pregnant women and their partners, and researching the virus’ consequences. Next, Dr. Kachur mentioned the CDC’s need for forming better monitoring systems for the virus, enhancing laboratory systems, training workforces, and establishing more field offices to further investigate the disease, as well as creating better tests to differentiate symptoms of the Zika virus from other diseases, such as dengue and chikungunya.
Additionally, Dr. Henriques spoke of the evolution of the virus in Brazil since the beginning of 2015 and mentioned that the rise in cases of microcephaly is what alerted health professionals to the possibility of a Zika outbreak. He also stated that although the government is dealing with many unanswered questions concerning the current scientifically unproven link between microcephaly and the Zika virus and the future consequences of the disease, Brazil’s Ministry of Health’s main priority is to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquito carrying the virus and support women and children. Finally, Mr. Wahba cited that there are 503 cases of the Zika virus in Haiti and that development, human rights issues and underfunding are impediments to helping achieve progress in this matter within the country.
Meeting: Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) 2016 Session: Briefing on the Zika Virus
Date/Time/Location: Tuesday, February 16, 2016; 15:00-17:00; Economic and Social Council Chamber
Speakers: His Excellency Ambassador Oh Joon, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from the Republic of Korea; Dr. Natela Menabde, Executive Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Office at the United Nations (UN) in New York City; Dr. Marcos Espinal, Director of the Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis at the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO); Dr. Patrick Kachur, Principal Deputy Director of the Center for Global Health at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Dr. Cláudio Maierovitch Pessanha Henriques, Director of the Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance at the Ministry of Health in Brazil; Mr. Mourad Wahba, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations (UN) Stabilization Mission in Haiti and the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator, and Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Port-au-Prince
Written By: WIT Representative Shubhangi Shukla
Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick
Photo Credit: BBC News