WHO declares Zika global 'public health emergency'

World Health Organisation’s emergency committee declares mosquito-borne Zika virus to be global 'health emergency'

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Professor David L. Heymann (L), Chair of the Emergency Committee, and WHO Director-General Margaret Chan hold a news conference after a meeting on Zika virus in Geneva, Switzerland, February 1, 2016.

The World Health Organisation on Monday declared the mosquito-borne Zika virus to be recognised as a "public health emergency of international concern", as the disease linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil spreads rapidly.

The closed-door meeting was held, with the participation of delegates of affected countries and health experts from across the world, with regards to WHO chief Margaret Chan’s urgent call. The move is expected to help fast-track international action and research priorities.

The UN health agency last week warned about the mosquito-inflicted virus ‘’spreading explosively’’ in South America, in where four million cases are expected to be seen this year alone.

However, WHO has been criticised due to not acting quickly concerning the fight against the Zika virus as the agency previously admitted its late response to the Ebola outbreak affected the entire Western Africa and killed more than 10,000 people in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

Zika is an infectious virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, that causes brain damage and physical development problems in new born babies resulting in the formation of unusually small heads. The virus was not a crisis in Brazil until this year, when health experts linked it to a surge in cases of microcephaly.

Since October, at least 300 confirmed Zika cases of microcephaly have been reported in Brazil, compared with less than 150 cases in the country in 2014.

According to estimates, nearly 80 percent of infected people have no symptoms of the virus. It is also difficult to diagnose pregnant women to see whether they are infected or not.

No medical treatment has been found and WHO announced that it is unlikely to develop a vaccine in less than a year.

TRTWorld and agencies