The Zika virus is now considered a public health emergency, after public officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed major concern over the growing outbreak in Latin America.
The WHO is particularly worried about the effects of the disease, which causes neurological issues and microcephaly. Microcephaly causes newborns to have unusually small heads.
“I am now declaring that the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders reported in Brazil, following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014, constitutes a public health emergency of international concern,” Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, said during a recent conference.
The WHO International Health Regulation Emergency Committee expressed concern over the Zika virus and the issues it causes, which led to the declaration of the public health emergency.
“The experts agree that a causal relationship between the Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected, though not yet scientifically proven,” Chan said. “All agree on the urgent need to coordinate international efforts to investigate and understand this relationship better.”
The disease has been spreading rapidly throughout Latin America. A case was even reported in the U.S. after a citizen traveled south.
“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,” Chan said.