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WHO declares public health emergency on Zika virus

WHO declares public health emergency on Zika virus

Zika virus

World Health Organization experts are putting plans in place to declare a global emergency over the Zika virus, linked to recent birth defects in Brazil.

It is expected the move would fast-track international action and research priorities.

“It would definitely galvanize international community as it was the case for Ebola, there should be concentrated efforts by member states, by international partners and by research and development community to look on different fronts trying to find a solution to the problem,” World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.

A move very necessary, the WHO has been widely criticized in the wake of the outbreak for reacting too slowly to the Ebola epidemic which struck West Africa and killed more than 10,000 people.

WHO last week agreed the Zika virus was “spreading explosively” putting some 4 million people in the Americas at risk.

“Emergency committee under international health regulation is usually composed of a number of leading world experts coming from different countries who will be basically looking into what we know about Zika virus and its potential link with microcephaly, what are the gaps in the knowledge, what studies need to be done, what studies are ongoing, how we move forward on research and development on vaccines as well. They will also be looking into what public recommendations can be given to countries,” Jasarevic added.

Officials fear the virus could spread to other parts of the Americas.

A news briefing is expected to be held on Tuesday to speak to issues surrounding Zika, WHO officials said.