The World Health Organization (WHO) has plans to meet and discuss the Zika virus, which is spreading rapidly in Latin America and is expected to continue to spread around the world.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan will convene an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for the virus on Monday, Feb. 1. The meeting will happen in Geneva, Switzerland. The committee is expected to talk about whether the current outbreak is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The outbreak in Latin America started in May of 2015 when the first case was reported in Brazil. Previously, all known cases had only affected Asia and Africa. The mosquito-borne illness has spread quickly since, affecting 22 Latin American countries.
The disease affects pregnant mothers and their newborns by causing microcephaly, which causes babies to have unusually small heads. The infection also causes Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disease that makes the immune system attack the nervous system. Guillain-Barre syndrome is a disease that has not been studied much.
The Regional Office for the Americas, which is operated by the WHO, has been working with Latin American countries to combat the virus. It has sent staff from the Global Outbreak and Response Network to help medical professional in these regions.