Brazil declares end to Zika virus emergency

pharmafile | May 12, 2017 | News story | Medical Communications Brazil, Vaccine, Zika, Zika virus 

Brazil has declared that the national emergency over the Zika virus threat is over, after there was a 95% drop in the number of reported cases between January and April. The virus had hit the country particularly hard, with a number of cases of babies born with birth defects thought to be linked to the virus causing many potential tourists to stay away.

The virus began to draw headline in 2015 and cases drew to a height not long before the 2016 Olympics – meaning that the expected boom in tourism was not to the levels expected. When coupled with the economic crisis that the country is still struggling through, 2016 turned from a year of celebrating Brazil to one in which, more worrying, headlines took precedence.

It now hopes to draw a line under the Zika threat by marking an end to the national emergency, whilst health ministers have remained vocal regarding the continued action that will take place to ensure the threat does not return.

The Independent reported Adeilson Cavalcante, the secretary for surveillance at Brazil’s health ministry, as saying: “The end of the emergency doesn’t mean the end of surveillance or assistance…The health ministry and other organizations involved in this area will maintain a policy of fighting Zika, dengue and chikungunya.”

In the meantime, pharmaceutical companies and university-based researchers are still intent on finding a potential vaccine for the virus. Only this week, preclinical results from research by City College of New York and TechnoVax showed favourable outcomes in the development of a vaccine.

In animal models, a vaccine formulation was found to be effective at producing protective antibodies with neutralising activity of the virus. It demonstrates equivalent or higher efficacy than that present in samples taken from a patient whose immune system had effectively fought off the virus.

Beyond this, it is known that Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and MSD are all known to be evaluating potential treatment for the Zika virus. The problem faced by such companies is the time needed to develop such a vaccine, as the virus had previously not been regarded as serious threat until cases of microcephaly began emerging in babies. At least for the moment, Brazil is allowed a respite from the threat of the virus.

Ben Hargreaves

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