Policy ForumEpidemiology

Countering the Zika epidemic in Latin America

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Science  22 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6297, pp. 353-354
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag0219

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As evidence grew for a causal link between Zika infection and microcephaly and other serious congenital anomalies (1), the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Latin American Zika epidemic a public health emergency of international concern in February 2016 (2). The speed of spread [see the figure, top, and the supplementary materials (SM)] has made effective public health responses challenging. Immediate responses have included vector control (3) and advice to delay pregnancy in a few countries (4), followed by an extended recommendation to all affected countries by WHO in June 2016. These have merits but are likely to have limited effectiveness (5) and may interact antagonistically. Fuller understanding of dynamics and drivers of the epidemic is needed to assess longer-term risks to prioritize interventions.