Zika virus an ‘international health emergency’

A health emergency is declared when situations are “serious, unusual or unexpected; carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; and may require immediate international action.”

The announcement was made after senior WHO officials, joined by representatives of affected countries and experts from around the globe, met behind closed doors in Geneva on Monday to determine if Zika should be considered a public health emergency of international concern.

WHO is under pressure to act quickly in the fight against Zika, after admitting it was slow to respond to the recent Ebola outbreak that ravaged parts of West Africa and killed more than 11,000 people.

Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile virus. Symptoms are mild and include fever, rashes and joint pain.

The disease is strongly suspected to be linked to microcephaly, a birth defect characterized by incomplete brain development and an unusually small head.

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