WHO emergency meeting on Zika today
31 January 2015, Nirapad News: The World Health Organization will hold an emergency meeting Monday to find ways to battle the Zika virus, which is linked to birth defects and “spreading explosively” through the Americas.
The WHO could classify the Zika outbreak now in 25 countries and territories as a “public health emergency of
international concern,” deserving of a coordinated global response, said a report by USA Today. An emergency
declaration is “similar to a global Amber Alert for public health,” Susan Kim, deputy director of Georgetown
University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law in Washington, said Sunday. “An emergency
declaration by WHO is a spotlight on the issue, telling the world that this is something the world needs to pay
attention to.” Zika is “a novel, emerging infection that we know very little about,” said Lawrence Gostin, director
of Georgetown’s O’Neill Institute, who urged the WHO to act in a JAMA editorial last week. “The people in these
countries deserve the protection of the international community and the World Health Organization.” Zika, which first appeared in the Western Hemisphere in May, is worrisome because “you have populations who have never been exposed and have no immunity,” Gostin said Sunday. “You have a huge moral and public health concern about the well-being of pregnant women and their babies.” Brazilian authorities have linked the Zika virus to a surge in cases of microscopically, a birth defect in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development.
The virus is spread through mosquitoes, like malaria or West Nile Virus. It does not spread directly from person to
person. Four out of five people with Zika virus have no symptoms, according to the WHO. Those who do become ill
typically have mild symptoms, such as a low fever, rash, joint pain, pink eye and headaches. An emergency declaration would direct more money to combat the problem, said Amesh Adalja, a senior associate at the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. If an emergency is declared, “there is a legal duty to
respond promptly to contain the outbreak.” The WHO has declared a public health emergency only three times: the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009; the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014; and a resurgence of polio in Syria and other countries in 2014. But the WHO never declared a public health emergency with other viruses, such as MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Adalja said