Dr Ashish K. Jha Addresses WHO's Reaction to the Zika Virus

Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH, discusses how the World Health Organization and other public health agencies are handling the Zika virus, and what role the media plays in their responses to global pandemics.

Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH, discusses how the World Health Organization and other public health agencies are handling the Zika virus, and what role the media plays in their responses to global pandemics.

Transcript (modified)

In the past you spoke out about how the World Health Organization handled the Ebola crisis. Now WHO has declared the Zika virus an international public health crisis. Has there been an improvement in how WHO handles these types of situations?

The Zika virus comes right on the heels of the catastrophe that was our response to Ebola. And Ebola really was a terrible lesson about how the world failed to respond effectively, and so the World Health Organization—lots of public health agencies—are under the microscope to get Zika right.

The good news is Zika is not as easily transmittable; it’s not quite as deadly as Ebola. But that all said, I do think WHO has acted more quickly, I do think other public health agencies are moving more quickly. The real question is: This urgency we see now, will it still be there when the media spotlight goes away in a few years?

The next big pandemic may not come when everybody is paying attention. And the question at that point will be: Will WHO and other public health agencies and countries respond quickly and effectively or do they need the media spotlight to do it?