WHO: The biggest threat to world’s health is lack of access to safe water
India is facing an unprecedented challenge in the fight against the Zika virus.
But the world’s biggest health organisation is warning that lack of water and sanitation could be its biggest threat.
WHO said the virus has forced people to drink contaminated water and is increasing the risk of diarrhoea, malaria and other infections.
The WHO said the biggest challenge is that, unless countries invest in safe water supplies, there is a 50-50 chance of the disease spreading.
“This is not just a health issue, it is a political issue, too,” said Dr Robert Farrar, a senior scientist at WHO.
He said the threat posed by the virus is a global one, and that the worst-case scenario is a pandemic that could reach a quarter of the world.
“It’s going to be an issue, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all,” he said.
But while the WHO has raised the alarm about water, it has focused mainly on sanitation, saying that unless countries make drastic changes to their systems, the virus could spread further.
It’s also raised concerns about how quickly the virus will spread, saying people may not be aware of the threat until it is too late.
On Friday, the WHO said it was calling on governments to put an end to water-borne disease outbreaks and that public health workers should be deployed in cities and towns to address outbreaks.
More than two-thirds of the 1.3 million cases of Zika infections in the world have been reported in Brazil, India and other countries, but WHO has not reported a global toll.
India has seen a rapid rise in the number of cases, from a low of 500 in February, to nearly 6,500 this month, according to WHO.
In the past few days, a spate of new cases has hit other parts of the country, including in Bihar and Kerala.