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WHO: Zika Virus Continues to be Global Public Health Emergency

  • Lisa Schlein

Nurses set up a mosquito tent over a hospital bed, as part of a precautionary protocol for patients who are infected by Zika at Farrer Park Hospital in Singapore Sept. 2, 2016

Nurses set up a mosquito tent over a hospital bed, as part of a precautionary protocol for patients who are infected by Zika at Farrer Park Hospital in Singapore Sept. 2, 2016

A World Health Organization emergency committee reports the threat of the Zika virus and its link with microcephaly or brain abnormalities in newborn babies, and other neurological disorders, remains high.

The committee said Zika infections constitute a public health emergency of international concern.

The committee warned the Zika virus is continuing to spread geographically. New outbreaks continue to be identified, most recently in Guinea Bissau and Singapore. It said nations must remain vigilant and take measures to contain the disease.

Since the World Health Organization declared Zika a global health emergency on February 1, the committee said it has learned a lot about the virus and its impact. Additionally, the committee said it has taught people how to control the virus and protect themselves from mosquito bites.

WHO executive director of outbreaks and health emergencies Peter Salama said health workers were trained on how to deal with the consequences of infection, helping women manage their pregnancies and dealing with a newborn baby with a brain disorder.

"Working with the scientific community, we have learned that Zika has consequences with infants beyond microcephaly to a range of complications from hearing and eyesight complications to seizures," he said. "And we now have called these the Zika Congenital Syndrome. Many entities, both public and private, are working on the development of diagnostic tests and vaccines.”

Three governments — Brazil, the United States, and Singapore — provided information on microcephaly, Guillain-Barre Syndrome and other neurological disorders. Brazil reported that none of the athletes or people who attended the Olympics was infected with Zika and said the upcoming Paralympics also would be safe.

The World Health Organization reaffirmed its previous advice that there should not be any restrictions on travel or trade with countries where Zika is being transmitted.

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