A year — or two — of Zika in the Western Hemisphere . . . We’re reading about how pandemic preparedness begins

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NewWWROne year into the Zika outbreak – “As so often happens in public health, when a disease subsides the control programme dies.” This observation, from part three of the World Health Organization’s accounting of how the Zika virus emerged from obscurity to become an unprecedented global health threat, refers to the shutdown of mosquito control programs in the Western Hemisphere once they had succeeded in their objective of stopping yellow fever outbreaks. The undercurrent of the story, though is one of limited capacities to detect, report, and track outbreaks of diseases and their consequences, and respond to them until their outcomes become impossible to ignore. The report describes events that include the first cases of Guillain Barre syndrome that followed the Zika outbreak in French Polynesia, leading to median hospital stays of 51 days, and notes that the potentially overwhelming burden on health services the syndrome poses. It also reminds readers that while the costs of caring for a single child with microcephaly are estimated in the United States to be as high as $10 million, the costs in lower-income countries are uncountable, and can be expected to impact employment and income as well as lives and over-burdened health systems.

Epidemiological alert – For a trip down memory lane while the world waits for a Congressional response to the Obama Administration’s February request for emergency Zika funding, the recommendations in this early report (before microcephaly, and when neurological complications were “rare and [had] only been identified in the epidemic in French Polynesia), still make for an informative read.

Zika virus outbreak in Haiti in 2014 – This article presents evidence that Zika virus was circulating in Haiti before the first reported cases in Brazil, highlighting the complexities, and necessities of tracking disease outbreaks, and enabling swift responses.

Confronting the Pandemic Threat – An unflinching look at the destructive forces of infectious disease outbreaks as well as of failures to respond, this article spells out that the biggest threat the world faces is likelier to be caused by an infectious disease than a terrorist attack, and what can be done to prepare.

Neighbors unite to fight Zika across the Americas – Noting that Guatemala alone is home to 27 distinct ethnic populations, this article underscores the importance of community and solidarity when fighting infectious diseases.

A Zika timeline – This timeline is a great resource for anyone trying to keep up with the unfolding horror story that the current Zika outbreak has become.

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