Zika Virus Highlights the Need for International Health Programs

By Calum Macpherson, Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Director of Research at St. George's University
November 21, 2016

Zika is spreading fast.

The virus, which is spread primarily by mosquitoes, has no known cure or treatment. It can cause fever, conjunctivitis, and headaches, among other things. Pregnant women with the virus can give birth to babies with underdeveloped brains.

So far, 48 countries and territories in the Caribbean and the Americas have reported cases of active Zika transmission.[1] Experts predict even more cases of the virus in the U.S.[2]

It’s a near certainty that we’ll be combating more health threats like Zika in the near future. Climate change has expanded the range of mosquitoes. Experts warn that other tropical diseases will start spreading to countries previously unaffected.

Globalization and air travel are already accelerating the spread of diseases. Over 2,200 travel-related cases of Zika have already been reported in the United States.[3]

How do we confront this uptick in the spread of disease?

Through research, for starters. On that front, the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) — SGU’s independent research arm — is making important progress. WINDREF recently received $380,000 in grants from the National Institutes for Health to study Zika and Chikungunya viruses here in Grenada.[4]

And last summer, SGU participated in a promising study of mosquito-borne illnesses. That research could lead to a powerful new system for monitoring the spread of diseases through mosquitoes and preventing future outbreaks.[5]

To better understand viruses like Zika, future doctors should also consider traveling to parts of the world where outbreaks are most prevalent.

This is the approach that we at St. George’s University have adopted. Over the last 40 years, SGU has welcomed students and faculty from over 140 countries.[6] Currently, we maintain academic partnerships with medical programs at 25 colleges around the globe, including schools in the United States, the United Kingdom, and places further afield, like Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Uganda.[7]

Our home in Grenada also supports SGU’s internationally focused mission. Our students can take the lessons they learn teaching nutrition classes in Grenadian schools and hosting community health fairs on oral hygiene to other similarly situated countries across the globe.[8] Further, SGU encourages our students to participate in international exchanges that give them clinical and research experience — and welcomes students from other nations to Grenada to do the same.[9]

The Zika virus should remind us of the importance of thinking about public health on a global scale. That makes a globally focused medical education more important than ever.

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/active-countries.html

[2] http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/zika-virus-outbreak/expect-more-u-s-zika-virus-cases-experts-say-n636771

[3] http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/zika-virus-outbreak/expect-more-u-s-zika-virus-cases-experts-say-n636771

[4] http://www.sgu.edu/news-events/2016/WINDREF-Receives-380000-in-Grants-to-Study-Vector-Borne-Diseases.html

[5] http://www.sgu.edu/news-events/news-archives15-St-Georges-University-Collaborates-with-Researchers-to-Tackle-Vector-Bone-Infections.html

[6] http://www.sgu.edu/news-events/news-archives15-Clinical-Professionalism-Selective-Provides-St-Georges-University-Students-Unique-Field-Experience-in-Sweden.html

[7] http://www.sgu.edu/school-of-medicine/international-partners.html

[8] http://www.sgualumnicommunity.gd/?page=IFMSA0114

[9] http://www.sgu.edu/news-events/sgu-chronicle_7_2348075300.pdf

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
This entry was posted in Public Health and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.