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WHO Emergency Meeting Being Held in Geneva on Zika Virus

Image: WHO Emergency Meeting Being Held in Geneva on Zika Virus

China's Margaret Chan, right, general director of the World Health Organization speaks about the Zika virus. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

By    |   Monday, 01 Feb 2016 12:45 PM

The World Health Organization (WHO) will hold an emergency meeting about the growing threat of the Zika virus on Monday.

"An emergency declaration by WHO is a spotlight on the issue, telling the world that this is something the world needs to pay attention to," Susan Kim, deputy director of Georgetown University's O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law in Washington, told USA Today on Sunday.

She added that the emergency meeting is "similar to a global Amber Alert for public health."

The disease, now thought to be affecting 25 countries, including the U.S., is currently thought to be especially dangerous for pregnant women, as it appears to cause microcephaly in their offspring, a condition characterized by abnormally small head and brain development.

Much like malaria or West Nile Virus, Zika is thought to be spread primarily by mosquitoes.

Because of the way it's spread, some experts are calling for WHO to join the fight against the species of mosquitoes thought to carry the virus. Others have called for travel restrictions to the affected areas, which is primarily Latin America, as well as research into the possible creation of vaccines.

WHO last called an emergency meeting over the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, but many have criticized the response as coming later than it should have.

"WHO clearly dropped the ball responding to the Ebola crisis, it took about five months to declare Ebola in West Africa a public health emergency," Prof. Peter Piot, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the BBC

"By any means this [Zika outbreak] is a public health emergency with the sheer numbers of people who are coming down with a flu-like syndrome, but particularly the complications."

The Associated Press reported that WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said on Thursday that the level of alarm over Zika is "extremely high," even though it has yet to be proven definitively that the virus is responsible for the number of babies recently born in Brazil with abnormally small heads.

According to the AP, "Zika was first identified in 1947 in a Ugandan forest but until last year, it wasn't believed to cause any serious effects; about 80 percent of infected people never experience symptoms. The virus has also been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, which causes muscle weakness and nerve problems."

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The World Health Organization (WHO) will hold an emergency meeting about the growing threat of the Zika virus on Monday.
who, emergency meeting, zika virus
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2016-45-01
Monday, 01 Feb 2016 12:45 PM
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