WHO declares end of Zika virus emergency, but vigorous action still needed versus disease
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared on Friday that the Zika virus and related neurological complications no longer constitute an international emergency but said that it would continue to work on the outbreak through a “robust programme”.
The WHO’s Emergency Committee, which declared an international public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) in February, said in a statement that they felt that “the Zika virus and associated consequences remain a significant enduring public health challenge requiring intense action but no longer represent a PHEIC.”
“We are not downgrading the importance of Zika, by placing this as a longer programme of work, we are sending the message that Zika is here to stay,” Doctor Peter Salama, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, told a news briefing.
The World Health Organization is instead shifting to a longer-term approach against a virus that has spread across Latin America, the Caribbean and beyond.
Doctor David Heymann, head of a WHO emergency committee on Zika, cited a “significant and enduring” threat.
Nearly 30 countries have reported birth defects linked to Zika. WHO says more than 2,100 cases of nervous-system malformations have been reported in Brazil alone.
Zika is mainly spread by mosquitoes, but also can be spread through sex. Most infected people don’t get sick. It can cause a mild illness, with fever, rash and joint pain.