World Health Organization

Photo from NIAID

The Zika virus has been all over worldwide news recently, with U.S. researchers urging the World Health Organisation (WHO) to take action against the virus. Transmitted by the mosquito Aedes albopictus, Zika has been linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil, and continues to spread throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.1 But what about the effect of Zika outside the Americas? Out partners at VIVA! shared their thoughts on the potential for the virus to spread to Australia.

What about Australia?

There is genuine potential for the Zika virus to spread to Australia through travellers returning from the Americas. Fortunately, however, there is a plan of action should the outbreak occur here. Dr Cameron Webb, a clinical lecturer at the Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research at the University of Sydney said, “If there was an outbreak, local health authorities would try to kill the mosquitoes and their eggs in the affected area quickly, while infected people would be isolated to limit the spread of their blood by other mosquitoes.”2

Dr Webb noted the Brazil outbreak highlighted the importance of Australia’s efforts to keep exotic mosquitoes out of the country, particularly Aedes albopictus or the Asian tiger mosquito, which is also capable of transmitting Zika.2 As the climate changes and becomes warmer, there is greater potential for the Asian tiger mosquito to establish itself in cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.

Associate Professor Nigel Beebe from the University of Queensland has recently been quoted as saying “to prevent this species and others from entering Australia, there were traps designed to catch them within 400 metres of every Australian port.” When foreign species are caught in these traps, scientists are typically able to examine the species and their eggs, and determine their origin.2 Scientists can then use this information to inform health, agriculture and travel authorities 2

The Department of Foreign Trade and Affairs is advising pregnant women to avoid travel in areas where Zika is active. The Federal Government is also requesting Australian doctors to look out for signs of Zika infection in travellers returning from affected areas. A government spokeswoman said Australian laboratories could diagnose the virus if required. Sydney Morning Herald, January 29, 2016.2 

What actions are being taken in your country to protect against Zika? Post a comment or tweet at us to let us know.

Want a more in depth analysis of the Zika situation in Australia? Take a look at the VIVA! blog.


  1. Caught off-guard by Zika, Brazil struggles with deformed babies. Reuters, 28, January, 2016. Available at:
  2. Australia, the Zika virus and why we need to keep exotic mosquitoes out. The Sydney Morning Herald, 29, January, 2016. Available at:


Today’s blog post comes to us from Lindsay Ford of Spectrum, United States partner and chair of GLOBALHealthPR.

Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day.  On this day, people join to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world. Organizations like the World Health Organization invest resources to develop technical and communication materials to raise awareness and combat stigma surrounding mental illness. [Read more…] about How to Make a Difference on World Mental Health Day

Diabetes-DefinitionDiabetes prevalence is on the rise and has reached epidemic levels in China. According to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the percentage of Chinese with diabetes has surpassed that of the U.S. In China, 11.6 percent of adults – 114 million people – have diabetes. Most alarming, only 30 percent of Chinese with diabetes are aware they have the disease.

Ninety-five percent of Chinese citizens have health coverage and overall health spending in the country might hit $1 trillion by 2020. Despite these expenditures, there is still a major shortfall in identifying, screening and treating populations who are at-risk for diabetes.

How do health care providers and government leaders address this?

In China and elsewhere, urgent action is needed to expand screening initiatives to reach more patients. Bi-directional screening, where testing for an infectious illness (such as TB or HIV) is combined with a non-communicable disease screen (such as diabetes or cancer), could be key. This allows health professionals to integrate new programs into already-existing clinics. In China, the World Diabetes Foundation and World Health Organization have shown some promise in integrating diabetes and tuberculosis screenings.

However, if any real, measurable progress is to be made in reducing the 70 percent of undiagnosed diabetes cases in China, we must go beyond the traditional tactics of stakeholder meetings and training sessions that often result in only a few thousand screenings. While meetings and trainings are essential to global health intervention, they must not be considered primary tactics.

ihs-diabetes-screenCapacity building” is a buzz term popular in development and public health NGO spheres. If real capacity is to be built in China and beyond, we must change the paradigm of how we measure success of chronic health interventions. We should aim to screen hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people. We must also aim to implement improvements in dozens or hundreds of hospitals & clinics, not just a few.

I’ve been screened: Now what?

Ultimately, screening initiatives fail if newly-diagnosed patients do not have access to treatments. Here are three ideas to achieve success in the fight to reduce diabetes:

  • Patient education should accompany screening or treatment programs to reduce the disease’s progression.
  • With more than 2,000 Mobile health applications in China already, mobile “doctors” could reinforce patient education, particularly where caregivers are in short supply.
  • The Chinese government must work with payers, employers and international partners to create sustainable, market-driven models for the distribution of treatments and medicines. The private sector is essential in this effort, as was noted in a People’s Daily report this June.

The new JAMA study suggests the Chinese diabetes epidemic is greater than previously imagined, but it is not an insurmountable barrier. International partnerships are essential to overcoming the burden of diabetes in China, and it’s time for all players to re-think how they can maximize ROI on screening and treatment interventions.