INDEPENDENT UK – The Zika virus outbreak should be considered a “public health emergency of international concern”, the World Health Organisation has said.
The global health body made its decision after an emergency meeting in Geneva to discuss the “explosive” nature of the virus. The rare move signals the seriousness of the outbreak and usually triggers increased money and efforts to stop the outbreak, as well as prompting research into possible treatments and vaccines.
The last time a global emergency was declared was following the Ebola outbreak in December 2013, which is thought to have led to more than 11,000 deaths. Health experts have said the Zika outbreak could be far worse and WHO officials have predicted that as many as four million people could be infected with the virus this year.
The outbreak of Zika, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, began in Brazil last May and has moved into more than 20 countries in Latin America. The main concern is Zika’s possible link to microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with brain damage and unusually small heads. Reported cases of microcephaly are rising sharply in Brazil though researchers have yet to establish a direct link.
Colombia has also seen a rise in the number of patients diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder which can cause paralysis.