Zika virus outbreak could become international health emergency
GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization announced that it will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to decide if the Zika virus outbreak should be declared an international health emergency.
At a special meeting Thursday in Geneva, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said the virus, which has been linked to birth defects and neurological problems, is becoming more of a threat.
Chan said although there was no definitive proof that the Zika virus was responsible for a spike in the number of babies being born with abnormally small heads in Brazil, "the level of alarm is extremely high." She also noted a possible relationship between Zika infection and Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can cause temporary paralysis.
"The possible links, only recently suspected, have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions. The increased incidence of microcephaly is particularly alarming, as it places a heart-breaking burden on families and communities," Chan said.
Earlier this week, officials in Rio ramped up their fight against the mosquitoes that spread Zika, dispatching a team of fumigators to the Sambadrome, where the city's Carnival parades will take place next month.
The World Health Organization estimates there could be three to four million cases of Zika in the Americas over the next year.