Mirco Junker, Global Data
The recent outbreak of the Zika virus in South America — which began in Brazil in May 2015 and has now spread to over 30 countries — has raised fears around the globe, as public health officials believe the viral infection threatens the health of both pregnant women and their unborn children. On January 14, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared success in the fight against Ebola, an outbreak that killed over 11,000 people, but the international community must now quickly shift its focus to addressing the Zika virus, which is rapidly spreading throughout the Americas and beyond as infected travellers return home.
Many countries and health organizations have already entered the fight against Zika, mostly by targeting the vectors of the virus, specifically Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Both are mosquito species commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions, but they have recently expanded their geographic range to parts of Australia, southern Europe, and the southern US.
However, given the very limited scientific data currently available for the Zika virus, Global Data sees a multipronged effort as having the most potential at treating this outbreak; specifically, the most effective effort would limit the availability of the vectors by destroying mosquito breeding grounds, using insecticides, and preventing mosquito bites, while also developing efficient, reliable, and cost-effective diagnostics as a first step in actively surveilling, and ultimately combatting, this new outbreak. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies that are experienced with vaccine R&D should initiate the development of a possible vaccine that could be available in the next few years.