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LSU Health New Orleans Neurologist Helping Shape Global Zika Response

Dr. John England at Zika Meeting in Honduras

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Leslie Capo

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When representatives from international health organizations gathered in Tegucigalpa, Honduras this summer to discuss the current global Zika Virus situation and develop proactive programs for care in the Americas, LSU Health New Orleans’ Dr. John England was a leading participant. Dr. England is a professor and Chair of Neurology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, and he chairs the World Federation of Neurology’s Work Group on Zika. The group, which included the World Health Organization (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), UNICEF, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras (UNAH), and the World Federation of Neurology (WFN), met with dignitaries from the French government and government officials from Honduras, along with health care professionals and public health officials from Honduras, Guatemala. El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Paraguay.
WHO estimates that nearly 100 million people and more than 1 million pregnant women in the Americas could be infected, suggesting that tens of thousands of children may have the congenital Zika virus syndrome.

Current case counts in the United States and US Territories indicate that 5,413 symptomatic Zika virus disease cases have been reported in the states since January 1, 2015 with 37,007 symptomatic cases reported in the territories.

Zika mosquito
“Although Zika virus does not appear to be spreading as aggressively as in previous years, the virus is still infecting large segments of the population in the affected regions,” notes Dr. England. “As more cases of Zika virus infection emerge, there is a great need to strengthen health systems to enhance surveillance and provide improved care and programs in the affected countries.”

This visit was England’s second visit to Honduras to develop Zika response. He and Dr. Marco Medina, Dean of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras, along with a small group of representatives from Central and South American countries met with Juan Orlando Hernandez, President of Honduras, last year. Drs. England and Medina have led a group charged with writing guidelines for the diagnosis and surveillance of neurological Zika infection complications.

The Honduran government, in association with UNAH, WHO, PAHO, Institut Francais, UNICEF and the WFN, has stepped to the forefront of these efforts to institute pilot programs to help patients and families. Health care representatives from other Central American countries are also interested in joining these efforts.

Dr. John England
“Participants concluded the meeting by pledging to plan further meetings and collaboration with health ministers and government officials from their respective countries and regions with the goal of instituting as many of the recommendations as possible,” England says. “All participants recognize that governmental and health care system commitments and financial support are necessary to ensure the success of these efforts. There is also hope that providing the resources and infrastructure for patients affected by the complications of Zika virus will serve as a model for providing care and support of patients affected by other diseases in these countries/regions.”