The World Health Organization on Monday, declared Zika Virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
At press briefing in Geneva on Monday, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan, declared Zika Virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, saying that protective measures against mosquito bites remain the most important preventive measure against the virus.
She added that a coordinated international response is needed to intensify the control of mosquito and expedite development of diagnostic tests.
Read below WHO director’s official statement on the outcome of the Emergency Committee on Zika Virus;
“I convened an Emergency Committee, under the International Health Regulations, to gather advice on the severity of the health threat associated with the continuing spread of Zika virus disease in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Committee met today by teleconference.
In assessing the level of threat, the 18 experts and advisers looked in particular at the strong association, in time and place, between infection with the Zika virus and a rise in detected cases of congenital malformations and neurological complications.
The experts agreed that a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected, though not yet scientifically proven. All agreed on the urgent need to coordinate international efforts to investigate and understand this relationship better.
The experts also considered patterns of recent spread and the broad geographical distribution of mosquito species that can transmit the virus.
The lack of vaccines and rapid and reliable diagnostic tests, and the absence of population immunity in newly affected countries were cited as further causes for concern.
At present, the most important protective measures are the control of mosquito populations and the prevention of mosquito bites in at-risk individuals, especially pregnant women,” the statement read in part.
Dr. Chan, however, advised pregnant women to consider delaying travel to Zika virus-affected areas as well as protect themselves with safe mosquito repellant or long clothing.
The WHO’s position came a day after the Nigerian government advised a travel restriction of its pregnant citizens to Latin America, the worst hit region since the Zika virus outbreak began late last year. Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, said the restriction would remain in place until ‘the situation improves.’
Zika virus is transmitted via the bite of Aedes mosquitoes. The viral infection has been linked with babies born with underdeveloped brains. There is currently no vaccine or drug to stop its spread.