WHO: Zika a Public Health Emergency

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WHO announces a Public Health Emergency of International Concern


WHO Director-General summarizes the outcome of the Emergency
Committee on Zika


WHO statement on the first meeting of the International Health
Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee on Zika virus and observed
increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations
1
February 2016


I convened an Emergency Committee, under the International Health
Regulations, to gather advice on the severity of the health threat
associated with the continuing spread of Zika virus disease in Latin
America and the Caribbean. The Committee met today by teleconference.


In assessing the level of threat, the 18 experts and advisers looked
in particular at the strong association, in time and place, between
infection with the Zika virus and a rise in detected cases of
congenital malformations and neurological complications.


The experts agreed that a causal relationship between Zika infection
during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected, though not
yet scientifically proven. All agreed on the urgent need to
coordinate international efforts to investigate and understand this
relationship better.


The experts also considered patterns of recent spread and the broad
geographical distribution of mosquito species that can transmit the virus.


The lack of vaccines and rapid and reliable diagnostic tests, and the
absence of population immunity in newly affected countries were cited
as further causes for concern.


After a review of the evidence, the Committee advised that the recent
cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders
reported in Brazil, following a similar cluster in French Polynesia
in 2014, constitutes an “extraordinary event” and a public health
threat to other parts of the world.


In their view, a coordinated international response is needed to
minimize the threat in affected countries and reduce the risk of
further international spread.


Members of the Committee agreed that the situation meets the
conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.


I have accepted this advice.


I am now declaring that the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and
other neurological disorders reported in Brazil, following a similar
cluster in French Polynesia in 2014, constitutes a Public Health
Emergency of International Concern.


A coordinated international response is needed to improve
surveillance, the detection of infections, congenital malformations,
and neurological complications, to intensify the control of mosquito
populations, and to expedite the development of diagnostic tests and
vaccines to protect people at risk, especially during pregnancy.


The Committee found no public health justification for restrictions
on travel or trade to prevent the spread of Zika virus.


At present, the most important protective measures are the control of
mosquito populations and the prevention of mosquito bites in at-risk
individuals, especially pregnant women.




 

2016-02-02 12:12

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