In November 2015, Brazil declared a national emergency with regards to the Zika virus outbreak that had taken hold of the country. Now, Brazil is finally calling an end to its national emergency due to a sharp decrease in the number of cases reported.
To recap: Zika is a virus primarily spread through mosquito bites, although it can be sexually transmitted as well. The disease causes symptoms such as fever, rash, headache, joint pain and muscle pain, although the most infamous symptoms have been those associated with difficulties during pregnancy—the virus has been known to cause birth defects and has been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome..
The number of cases from January to April 2017 decreased by 95 percent when compared to the same time period last year—with 7,911 reported cases this year versus a much higher 170,535 in 2016, according to the Brazilian health minister. Further, there have been no reported deaths in 2017, compared to the eight reported last year.
“What appears to have happened is there is now herd immunity in the population because so many people were infected,” said Professor David Heymann, who was chairman of the World Health Organization’s emergency committee for the Zika outbreak. “Now the virus can’t find enough people who don’t have protection, to circulate.”
Unfortunately, this “herd immunity” does not mean an end to the virus indefinitely.
“As immunity decreases, because new populations come in that haven’t been exposed to Zika, [and] as they get older, there may be epidemics in the future,” Heymann said.
As there is still no vaccine for the Zika virus, it is recommended to continue taking precautionary steps against mosquito bites. You can find more information about the virus on the CDC’s website.
Photo: Oregon State University, CC-BY
Emma Korstanje is a freelance journalist based out of Athens, GA.