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Hopkins researchers say Zika threat may have peaked

Posted at 6:44 PM, Jul 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-14 18:45:41-04

In a new review published Thursday by researchers at Johns Hopkins, experts said that the spread of the Zika Virus in South America may have already “peaked.”

Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and his colleagues at the Imperial College London said that the number of cases is falling, because so many people have been exposed already and are beginning to develop a “herd immunity.”

But, Lessler said, the work is not over.

“We’ll have a lull in transmission, and it will seem like our job is done,” Lessler said. “But we need to keep our eye on the ball for what we need to do five years out, ten years out when the virus may come back.”

The researchers concluded that there are two main reasons Zika is posing such a threat right now—that the virus mutated, and became more infections, or that it was previously such a small-scale disease that it was hard to really know the health effects.

"Despite knowing about this disease for nearly 70 years, we were completely surprised and rushing to discover the very basic things about it when it invaded the Americas," Lessler said. "We have been completely unable to stop its spread. That is a problem for how we approach public health.”

Lessler said that a “good portion” of money from the U.S. Congress that could be earmarked for Zika should go toward developiong long-term strategies for sustainable mosquito control and vaccines.

Most people infected with the virus show no symptoms, or minor symptoms like rashes.

Currently, there is no vaccine or cure for Zika virus. The Hopkins researchers said that means the only way to stop the spread is through prevention measures.

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