Thu Jan 28, 2016 3:37PM
The head of World Health Organization (WHO) has voiced alarm over the Zika outbreak around the Americans, saying the virus is “spreading explosively.”
Speaking at a meeting of WHO member states on Thursday in the Swiss city of Geneva, Director-General Margaret Chan said that the UN health agency is deeply concerned over the situation as the level of alarm over the virus has become “extremely high.”
She said the mosquito-borne virus has gone from a “mild threat” to “alarming proportions.”
The WHO chief also called for an emergency meeting on the virus, which is taking hold across South and Central America and the Caribbean, on Monday to determine if the outbreak should be declared an international health emergency.
Meanwhile, WHO Assistant Director Bruce Aylward has emphasized the importance of coordination among the member state to prevent viruses from spreading.
“This is an important consideration of the director-general in calling (the meeting) is to ensure that there are no inappropriate measures taken by member states in terms of travel or trade. That is a major consideration of the director-general,” Aylward said on Thursday.
The Zika virus is suspected to cause serious birth defects. It is linked to microcephaly disease, in which babies born to women infected during pregnancy have abnormally small heads.
Elsewhere in her remarks, the WHO chief said the relationship between Zika and birth defects has not yet been fully established but is “strongly suspected.”
There is no sure prevention or treatment for the disease and affected countries are reportedly doing their best to eliminate the breeding grounds for Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which bite all day long.
Cases of Zika virus have so far been reported in nearly two dozen countries.
Brazil has been the country hardest hit by the outbreak. There is currently no specific treatment for the virus and no way to prevent it other than avoiding mosquito bites.
US media reports say at least five people in the New York area have also been diagnosed with the virus.
There is no sure prevention or treatment for the disease and affected countries are reportedly doing their best to eliminate the breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
At this point, no specific travel advisory has been issued by the WHO, but national centers could issue travel advice to their own citizens, based on the evidence they have.
Zika virus was first isolated from a monkey in Zika Forest, Uganda, in 1947.
In Brazil, three people were reported dead due to the Zika virus in November 2015.