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WHO declares end of Zika emergency but says virus remains a threat

Feb
26

Date: February 26th, 2017

WHO declares Zika public health emergency over

The World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee clearly stated that Zika virus will no longer be treated as a global public threat to individual’s health. It went on to warn that over 60 countries have been affected ever since Zika virus was first reported in Brazil, expressing concerns that the virus will still spread in areas where the virus-carrying mosquitoes are existent.

What does this mean?

Having changed the approach at which the international health agency looks at Zika virus, it will now be placed in the same level as dengue, which pose serious risks and require continued research.

As expected, several people raised concerns over the move, expressing fears that taking away the “international emergency” status could lead to a decline in research of the virus that seems to still be increasing on a daily basis.

Lawrence Gostin, a global health law expert from Georgetown University said that the decision is unwise.

He went on to state that “Although Zika’s spread has waned, it still holds the potential for an explosive epidemic. If it were to reemerge in the Americas or jump to another part of the world, it would significantly threaten a new generation of children born with disabilities such as microcephaly.”

When the virus was declared in February this year an international emergency, countries were basically compelled to report any outbreaks. This was a move made so as to establish whether Zika could be associated with microcephaly, a condition on high rise in Brazil. Zika has for a long time been considered to have only mild symptoms.

Dr David Heymann, chair of the Zika Emergency Committee and a professor of infectious disease at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that the goal has already been achieved. He made the announcement at a conference with reporters after finalizing a meeting in Geneva.

He explained that available data from numerous studies indicated microcephaly and Zika are linked, prompting the committee to seek for more robust steps in combating the virus.

Previous recommendations still hold

The United Nations health agency maintained that recommendations it had given in the past are still active. These include people exposed to the virus ought to refrain from sex for a minimum of six months. Also, pregnant women should avoid travelling in high-risk areas.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said in a statement that “It remains crucially important that pregnant women avoid traveling to areas with local transmission of Zika, because of the devastating complications that can occur in fetuses that become infected during pregnancy.”

Brazil Hit Badly

Over 2,300 babies with microcephaly condition have been born in Brazil, but some experts claim that these figures have been significantly under-estimated.

Heymann stated that the Brazilian government was still looking into the matter to figure out any other explanation for the high rate of cases reported.

The United States CDC has been critical that terming Zika virus not an international emergency does not mean changing the urgency at which it is researched.

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