On Thursday, US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency and ordered a nationwide lockdown in the US, where there have been at least 2,300 confirmed cases of Zika virus and more than 5,400 confirmed cases with no known cure.
The emergency also called for a mandatory vaccination programme and the deployment of 500,000 additional US troops to fight the virus.
But the US health care system is not designed to cope with a Zika outbreak, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“In this system, we have a set of very difficult systems, not only for managing a Zika infection, but for managing other infectious diseases,” says Andrew C. McCarthy, a professor of health systems management at the University of Southern California.
The study, published in an online edition of the journal Pediatrics, looked at the US healthcare system and the Zika virus outbreaks in countries across the Americas.
It found that while the healthcare system can respond to an outbreak with measures to prevent transmission, the US system is often less able to deal with the pandemic.
“When it comes to Zika, we’re very, very, small,” says McCarthy.
“If you have one outbreak, you have a big impact.
But with the Zika, it’s really, really small.
There’s not that much that we can do to stop it.”
McCarthy says the healthcare systems in the Americas are built to deal effectively with the effects of an outbreak.
“We have an emergency that is pretty dramatic,” he says.
“But we have no plan in place to deal efficiently with that, to address it.”
What does the study say?
McCarthy’s team looked at data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) to estimate how much of the US population would need to be vaccinated in order to prevent one case of Zika.
“The US health system is built to handle an outbreak,” says Robert T. O’Hara, a senior scientist with the CDC’s National Center on HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NIVPHT), and a co-author of the study.
“To make things worse, we haven’t designed the system to handle the full impact of a pandemic.”
What do the researchers say is the biggest problem with the US medical system?
“It is the way the health system responds to an infection,” says O’Lara.
“They can’t control every situation that comes their way.
It’s an extremely difficult system to manage.”
A system designed for a pandemics could be more successful at dealing with an outbreak, but it is not built to cope in a pandestas outbreak, says McCarthy, the co-founder of the CDC.
“There are so many different factors that come into play,” he adds.
“That’s why it’s very difficult to build an effective healthcare system.”
The study shows the US has very limited ways to deal the consequences of an Ebola outbreak.
Health systems in Canada, Germany and France, for example, are not designed for the rapid spread of an influenza virus, and many countries in the developing world don’t have any vaccines or treatments for the virus, which can cause a variety of serious and sometimes fatal side effects.
A vaccine would have to be developed and tested in a large number of countries, which takes a long time, says Caryn Stoner, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.
“You can’t just say ‘we’ll send in an army.’
It would be like sending in a bunch of soldiers,” she says.
The US healthcare systems could be even more affected by an outbreak of Zika if they have no effective vaccine for the disease, says Toner.
The CDC is planning a vaccine trial, which is scheduled to start later this year, but will only test the vaccine in people who have been infected with the virus themselves, so they are not exposed to it.
“It’s going to take time to get this vaccine to market,” says Tiller.
“This is not a vaccine for every disease.”
The researchers say they hope to find out how to design a vaccine so it can be administered in small numbers, but they also acknowledge that the vaccine will likely be a challenge to get to market.
“I think it’s important to recognize that we are still in a very fragile state,” says Dr. Gregory Fauci, a former CDC chief medical officer who is now a senior fellow at the Urban Institute.
“And this is a virus that can spread quickly in very small numbers.”
How can the US cope with an epidemic?
“I don’t think we’ve thought about that in the way we should,” says Stoner.
“For me, I think that we’re going to be able to do a lot better than we did in the early days of the pand