A calm, rational reaction to the Zika virus

Peter Doherty explains the likely outcomes of the Zika virus pandemic.

What we are seeing in the Americas is a classic “virgin soil” epidemic. Enormous numbers of people and mosquitoes are being infected, the virus is transmitting at a very high level, and there may be as many as 4×106 cases. Apart from affected neonates, all will likely recover, with increasing “background” immunity progressively limiting the number of new infections in subsequent years. The current molecular technology is such that making a protective vaccine should be technically straightforward, but the process of safety testing and evaluation could take several years.

The long-term prospect with Zika virus is that we will live reasonably comfortably with it, especially if there is a vaccine to protect women of reproductive age. The principal decision for responsible authorities, like National Governments in endemic areas and the WHO, is whether there is a case for fast-tracking, then funding, a vaccine to protect all young women. For the present, pregnant women are advised not to travel to these countries and, for those where this in not an issue, insect repellant also offers some protection against much nastier viruses like dengue and Chikungunya.

It's spreading rapidly, and one contributor to that is the ridiculous attitudes of conservative Christianity, but this one, tragic as its consequences can be, isn't the big pandemic that will kill us all. And the answer to it lies in natural properties of adaptive immunity and vaccines.


More like this

Do you think you should you be prevented from speaking at future conferences because you desecrated a Qur'an a few years ago, just like how Richard Dawkins was uninvited from a conference for tweeting a cartoon?

By Raquel Abdelnour (not verified) on 01 Feb 2016 #permalink

We do know how to control mosquitoes quite well (have been doing it for west nile virus recently for horses. It may become a new application for drones looking for standing water and dispatching someone to deal with it. Consider that at one time in the 19th century Malaria extended up into northern In for example. So we know how to control mosquito born diseases. Note the comment that tighter house and ac mean less being outside where mosquitoes are.

Good thinking Lyle

By Four Life Sciences (not verified) on 04 Feb 2016 #permalink

Malaria was only eradicated in Italy about 50 years ago.

A 25-year program achieved eradication from 1945-1970.

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 04 Feb 2016 #permalink