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The Zika Virus: An Emergency Management Panel Discussion

The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus and its suspected link to birth defects an international public health emergency, a rare move that signals the seriousness of the outbreak and gives countries new tools to fight it

Photo Credit : Shutterstock


After the Syrian crisis the next most talked about topic right now is Zika virus in the world. Its breakout has shocked all the corners and has alarmed even the United Nations. The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus and its suspected link to birth defects an international public health emergency, a rare move that signals the seriousness of the outbreak and gives countries new tools to fight it.

An outbreak of the Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, was detected in Brazil in May and has since moved into more than 20 countries in Latin America. The main worry is over the virus's possible link to microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with unusually small heads and, in the vast majority of cases, damaged brains. Reported cases of microcephalyare rising sharply in Brazil, ground zero for the disease, though researchers have yet to establish that Zika causes the condition. There have been quotes propagating to delay pregnancy and also there are few clinics in Brazil which are offering women seeking fertility treatment the option to freeze their eggs or an embryo at no additional cost because of the new guidelines due to the Zika outbreak. The virus's link to birth defects reignites debate about abortion in several countries.

To emphasize a little more let look at some numbers. It was first detected in 1974 in Uganda's Zika forest. In 2015 the Zika virus had spread rapidly in Latin America and with the latest news there have been 3530 cases of babies born with smaller craniums and brains. The number of deaths of deformed babies rose to 49. Total of 1.5 million people are infected till now. The virus now has spread to 20 countries in the world. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel advisory, warning pregnant women to avoid 14 countries and territories in the Caribbean and Latin America affected by the virus.

Below is a pictorial representation describing how easy it is for this virus to spread:

It's predicted by the WHO that three to four million people alone in Americas could be infected by Zika virus. Keeping all these things and numbers in mind, we as mangers and leaders have to take a cautious call for the safety of our employees and especially for our female colleges who are expecting. As we are aware that no specific and successful vaccine is available, we need to be on tenterhooks.

As leaders and managers it's our responsibility to equip our offices and work stations with proper sterilization from any kind of mosquitoes. This could be done in collaboration with the Admin and HR teams to have hand sanitizers all around the floors. Have pamphlets describing and educating people about the virus and its spreading patterns.

We could avoid all kinds of travels to the infected countries at all means and help people who are there to come back and be properly examined before the arrival to their respective countries. We should carry out medical weeks and frequent check-ups for our employees where if at all there are any symptoms (For Zika the symptoms are equivalent to none and hence it makes it more difficult to be detected), they could be taken under consideration. As management we should have a dedicated team for emergencies in office vicinity so that we could reach the nearest hospitals in time.

Lastly, we should consider the fact that regular drills would help us in being on our toes and acting proactively in bad times. Seminars and telecons should be arranged to keep the targeted audience always up to date with the recent findings.

With inputs from Heba who is a Consultant-Advisory Services at Ernst & Young.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
Zika virus World Health Organization healthcare america

Jaspreet Singh

A practice leader who owns the P&L of Cyber Security, North India which includes leading the teams in both selling and then executing engagements in the areas on risk management, information technology governance and value with clients across industry verticals. Key areas of responsibilities include top line and bottom line growth, engagement and project management, team building, and practice management.

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