The World Health Organization just declared that Zika is no longer an international emergency. However, the virus still poses a major threat to the health of individuals. The recent Zika crisis started with a virus that causes birth defects and neurological complications. The virus still has that effect on the human body. So, officials from the Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization want to be very clear on the fact that Zika is still very much a threat to global public threat. The emergency situation regarding the virus is over though, says the WHO.
World Health Organization Removes Emergency Label
The officials of the World Health Organization said that there needs to be a long-term approach to the Zika virus. Fighting Zika is going to require coordinated efforts that might take longer than expected.
The Zika virus was identified for the first time last year in Brazil. Since then, it has spread to 60 countries. The virus is carried by mosquitoes and transmitted through mosquito bites. So, there is still the possibility for the virus to continue to spread.
By removing the international emergency designation, the Zika virus becomes a disease with a major risk factor but loses the status of a global emergency. It will remain in a class of diseases that pose a major threat to public health, like dengue fever. The diseases in this class carry serious risks and require continued research. This includes efforts to find and test out an effective vaccine for the virus.
Some public health experts were not happy with Zika losing the label that says “international emergency”. They fear that this could mean a loss of interest in the continued development of the situation. That could have unwanted effects, such as less funding or a slowing down of research into the virus. At the moment, the Zika virus is still causing infections in South America, the United States and elsewhere in the world. So, public health experts feel that it should still be a priority.
The World Health Organization Has Enough Data on Zika
The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a public health emergency that was of international concern in February of this year. Under international law, countries have to report any outbreaks of the disease. The WHO made that decision so that it could have conclusive data regarding the effects of the virus. Until then it was believed that Zika only caused mild symptoms.
Experts needed enough data to determine if there is a link between the virus and the severe birth defects that were being reported in Brazil. At the time there were reports of babies born with microcephaly and Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a neurological disorder. But the link between the incidents and the Zika virus had not been established yet.
Dr. David Heymann is the chair of the Zika Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization. He is also a professor of infectious disease at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Speaking to the press in Geneva he said that the WHO has met the goal of effectively isolating the Zika virus.
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