United Nations lifts emergency declaration on Zika

The World Health Organization reported Friday that the fight against the Zika virus has entered a new phase, ending the virus' designation as a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern".

The decision comes nine months after the United Nations agency first declared an emergency over Zika and its associated complications, which include devastating brain defects in babies infected in the womb and a paralyzing condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome in some people after infection.

The Zika virus, which is mainly transmitted by mosquitoes, has been spreading around the Americas and parts of Asia over the past year. "We are sending the message that Zika is here to stay, and the World Health Organization response is here to stay".

The fifth meeting of the Emergency Committee (EC) on Zika and microcephaly convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) regarding microcephaly, other neurological disorders and Zika virus was held by teleconference on 18 November 2016. "We are sending the message that Zika is here to stay and the W.H.O. response is here to stay".

The WHO was meeting later Friday in Geneva to discuss whether it would still classify the Zika outbreak as a "public health emergency of worldwide concern".

Genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are
Genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are

Some observers fear the decision could make it harder to receive funding for Zika research that they believe remains a high priority.

But in May 2015 it was reported in Brazil and has since spread rapidly.

Two anti-Zika vaccines are now being tested, according to the WHO.

"The Zika virus remains a highly significant and long term problem, but it is not any more a public health emergency of global concern", the world health body's emergency committee chair Dr David Heymann said. Even so, the virus is still around, and the agency said it would continue to work on the outbreak through a "robust program". For example, the World Health Organization says it now knows Zika cases will spread seasonally in warm months, just like malaria or chikungunya. The news came as authorities in the Kingdom have increased their efforts to screen social groups at risk from the infection, like pregnant women and young girls.

"And, in fact, the more we learn about Zika, the more concerned we are". Myanmar has also confirmed their first case of Zika virus in October, when a foreign pregnant woman was diagnosed with the mosquito-borne virus. In practical terms, it meant that its recommendations aimed at curbing the spread of Zika, minimizing economic impacts or promoting collaborative research carried more clout among member states. It has spread to more than 60 countries and territories since the outbreak was identified past year in Brazil. Globally the total is about 2,300. "The potential of the Zika virus to spread and cause birth defects in the next generation warrant continual watchfulness, research, and global action".

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  • Myrtle Hill