Date of Meeting: 16 Feb 2016

Meeting Organizer: Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC)

ISJC Staff Present: Captain Kathy Crombie, Luke Cozens, Robert Docter

Reporter: Robert Docter

Which SDG does this topic cover? 3

Type of meeting: ECOSOC Briefing

Brief summary of presentation of information made

Dr. Natela Menabde: Exec. Director, World Health Organization (WHO) at the UN, New York

*The Zika Virus has strong links to two medical conditions: Microcephaly and Guillen-Barre. Microcephaly results in infant deformities during pregnancy. Guillen-Barre is a syndrome that affects the immune system.

*These two diseases have strong connections to the recent outbreak of the Zika Virus, WHO is working for better and more reliable diagnostic tools to detect the virus itself, and of Microcephaly and Guillen-Barre. New technology and strategies to diagnose the virus and associated side effects are then to be communicated to countries that are affected.

*WHO is underway with treatment resources for women infected with the virus along with those infected with microcephaly and Guillen-Barre.

*WHO currently is in communication with travel agencies, especially airports, in establishing safe protocols and surveillance regarding the virus. Much of these efforts will look like the those during the Ebola crisis in 2014-15.

*Some current statistics of the virus:

            *7 countries have cases of the microcephaly and Guillen-Barre associated with Zika.

            *34 countries in total have reported cases of Zika Virus in general.

*Some figures of the virus were shared, coming from one of the heaviest infected places, Brazil:

            *4,783 cases already, ¼ those have been investigated. Of the chunk of those investigated:

                        *709 were discarded

                        *17 confirmed 380 likely.

*WHO main objective is to investigate and respond to the neurological consequences to the virus (microcephaly and Guillen-Barre) by providing care and prevention methods. The approach includes:

*Surveillance (to maintain up to date data);

*Response (engage community and talk about the risks, promote healthy behaviors,  

 increase the control and spread of the mosquito and promote safety methods, guidance

and mediation of pregnancies in infected areas, provide services for children affected to

mitigate the impact of the disease on pregnant women.

*Research (for etiology of the disease, neurological symptoms and consequences of

virus, therapeutics and rapid diagnosis.)

*WHO advises pregnant women to consider travel precautions to countries affected by the virus.

*Recent development currently is the Zika Virus being able to be transmitted sexually. 2 recent reports found transmission through semen. This adds a tremendous dimension to the prevention efforts of the virus, and of the possibility of a dangerous and rampant outbreak.

*WHO calls for access to all to have reproductive health services, abortion access and contraceptives for example. Women’s rights need to be at the forefront.

Dr. Patrick Kachur: United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

*Zika Virus is a situation that is rapidly changing – new developments are made daily. A new guideline is needed to combat the virus and the consequences associated with it.

*CDC stands with the surveillance, response, and research approach.

*History of this virus: it was isolated and first detected in Uganda in 1047 à 1960s: first humans to get the virus à 1970s – 2000s: isolated and few cases in Africa. Not an urgent health crisis. à 2007-09: Outbreak occurred in the Western Pacific à 2015, new outbreak in South America and Pacific, with associated links to microcephaly and Guillen-Barre.

*States in the USA with Zika cases: California, Oregon, Texas, Florida, DC, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands. These were mosquito transmitted cases.

*Zika symptoms are very similar to dengue and chikungunya. Some slight differences of these vs. Zika:

            *Zika rash comes faster              

            *fever, rash, and conjunctivitis are the common symptoms

*CDC advises those with symptoms of dengue and chikungunya to take precautionary measures due to the similar nature of it to Zika.

*CDC is acting fast now, and advising for countries to be prepared for the summer months where mosquitoes are more prevalent.

CDC is implementing and following the global health security model (Prevent à Detect à Respond)

*a constant revamp of treatment measures will continuously adapt the situation, for this is still a virus with a lot of uncertainties – uncertainties of its symptoms, consequences, and spread.

Dr. Claudio Maierovitch Pessanha Henriques, Ministry of Health, Brazil

*Brazil first had reports of exanthematous illness in association with Zika virus. The illness results in rashes. In October 2015, the first credible information of microcephaly and Zika was found.

*He provided information about Mothers of Brazil who were infected:

            *Mothers reported rash during pregnancy

            *Positive Zika virus in amniotic fluid, tissues, and blood samples

            *Some babies infected died shortly after birth.

            *They had some cases where mother thought she had dengue, and testing showed it was rather the Zika virus.

*There’s still a lot of uncertainty between the Zika virus and microcephaly connection.

Dr. Mourad Wahba, Deputy Special Representative for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti

*In Haiti, there have been 503 recent cases. Much of these cases occurred in urban areas. This reflects the level of detection and spread of the virus.

*Haiti’s had 3 confirmed cases of Guillen-Barre in association to Zika. No cases of microcephaly. 

*UN stabilization Mission in Haiti is working and looking at vector controls; surveillance, health care for those affected, and spread information and education for the public in efforts of prevention.

*Zika virus is a human rights issue as for many who are vulnerable there are high numbers of unplanned pregnancies, limited contraception, limited safe sex practices, unsafe abortion practices. It is therefore important that vulnerable people gain more control over their sexuality and reproductive health.

*Also working towards a public relations strategy to spread public information on the Zika virus in order for people to know the prevention methods and the symptoms.

*It’s also looking into the unsafe medical practices that can possibly occur due to the outbreak. This includes unsafe abortions, lack of appropriate drugs, no education and measures for prevention, etc.

Member States Responses:  

Nicaragua – Working to educate public, invest in research efforts, but rejects the call for providing safe abortions due to its laws.

St. Vincent – Working in developing precautionary efforts and educating its public on the Zika virus. This includes house checks and community education. The country has not had any cases thus far.

European Union – is working in taking on precautionary measures, specifically with mosquitoes.

Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) – they are in the works of minimizing and reducing risks of the virus making an international spread. They are willing to do the means necessary in pesticides of mosquitoes while keeping environment in mind.

Holy See – rejects the call for increased access to abortions made by the WHO. 

What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?

  • TSA countries in the prone countries need to know the symptoms and characteristics of this potentially life-threatening virus. This includes the medical work, MCH clinics, and general health services provided throughout the world.

  • TSA is equipped with measures to treat those infected with the virus, and those children with microcephaly and Guillen-Barre.

  • TSA aware of the similarities of this virus to dengue and other similar, mosquito-transmitted viruses. Therefore, its services can take the appropriate measures when faced with it.

  • TSA educates the people working and served in its programs regarding the virus – this involves keeping up to date to the latest precautionary and treatment efforts.

  • MCH clinics and hospitals of TSA are appropriately equipped and prepared for potential outbreaks – especially as the year approaches summer, and mosquitoes are in greater quantity.

  • TSA evaluating the goods it gives to the pubic in areas where Zika is growing increasingly rampant – and to give the appropriate tools for prevention, i.e. the right kind of mosquito nets. 

Web links for more information

Meeting Itinerary

World Health Organization (WHO) information on Zika Virus

Information on Chikungunya

Information on Microcephaly

Pan-American Health Organization information on Zika Virus

Food and Agriculture Organization Statement of Zika Virus

UN Human Rights office of the High Commissioner, Women’s Rights in relation to Zika Virus

UN Population Fund Statement on the Zika Virus

Tags: United Nations, SDG3: Good Health and Well-Being