Zika virus outbreak IS a ‘global public health emergency’, says World Health Organisation, as graveyards and schools are desperately disinfected in South America
- Outbreak of the Zika virus is a global public health emergency, the World Health Organisation warned today
- The alert puts the mosquito-borne disease in the same category as Ebola, which killed 11,000 people in West Africa
- Experts predict there could be four million cases of the virus, which has spread to 23 countries, this year
- WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan called it an ‘extraordinary event’ and called for an international response
- There is no cure or vaccination for the virus, which is linked to babies being born with abnormally small heads
These haunting images show health workers fumigating homes, schools and graveyards as South American officials desperately try to limit the spread of the Zika virus, which was today declared a global health emergency.
The World Health Organisation said the outbreak should be considered a ‘public health emergency of international concern’, putting the mosquito-borne disease in the same category as ebola, which killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa.
Experts were called in to assess the Zika outbreak after noting a link between its arrival in Brazil last year and a surge in the number of babies born with abnormally small heads.
WHO officials have predicted that as many as four million people could be infected with the virus this year.
The alert was recommended by a committee of independent experts to the United Nations agency, following criticism of a hesitant response so far.
The move should help fast-track international action and research priorities.
The committee advised that the association between the virus and microcephaly – a condition where the child has an underdeveloped brain – constitutes an ‘extraordinary event’. Calling the spread an ‘extraordinary event’, she said the ‘level of alarm is extremely high’.
WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan said the causal relationship between infection during pregnancy and microcephaly in babies is ‘strongly suspected’ but not yet scientifically proven.
Pregnant women have been warned not to travel to infected areas.
Brazil yesterday urged mothers-to-be to avoid this summer’s Olympics in Rio because of the virus. Cabinet chief Jaques Wagner said: ‘It is clearly not advisable for you [to come] because you don’t want to take that risk.’
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