Alert: Zika Virus Declared International Emergency By WHO


By Nigel Boys

Following the announcement in 2009 by the World Health Organization during the H1N1 swine flu outbreak and the Ebola and Polio outbreaks of 2014, a new menace has caused concern for the public health organization.

In an announcement on Monday, WHO Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan, said that the recent outbreak of the Zika virus and how quickly it has spread across the Americas is a cause for international concern. “The level of alarm is extremely high,” said Chan last week in Geneva.

The recent classification as an international public health emergency will hopefully result in an immediate and global response to the virus born by mosquito’s and thought to be the cause of serious birth defects.

Last month WHO announced that of the 55 countries and territories across the Americas, 21 had already shown signs of Zika. The organization further explained that the disease is thought to be linked to microcephaly, which affects babies born to infected women during pregnancy.

The Zika virus, which is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, along with dengue and chikungunya, has now been reported in 23 countries and territories in the region, according to the WHO. After first being isolated in Uganda in 1947, the virus which spreads through the bite of the mosquito was mainly restricted to equatorial parts of Africa and Asia.

However, it has recently spread to the Pacific islands and it was detected in Brazil last year. The as yet unproven link between Zika and pregnant women is thought to cause the birth of babies with abnormally small heads and in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that while the Zika virus has unconfirmed links to birth defects, most people who catch the disease will only suffer from mild flu-like symptoms for anywhere up to one week. These include: fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis.

Tom Frieden, director of the CDC wrote on CNN that people living in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Caribbean or Pacific territories and Central and South America are likely to see an increase in the spread of Zika. He added, however, that most people living in the contiguous U.S. are not likely to ever come in contact with the disease.


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