Friday, 28 October 2016
WHO Director General Margaret Chan. WHO Director General Margaret Chan. © Chatham House / wikimedia

World Health experts meet to discuss Zika pandemic

AN emergency committee of the World Health Organisation (WHO) will meet to discuss the alarming spread of the Zika virus, which can cause life-threatening birth defects in babies.

WHO Director General Margaret Chan spoke at a special briefing in Geneva and warned that the mosquito-borne virus was “spreading explosively,” and that its discovery in 23 countries of the Americas was “deeply concerning.”

Scientists estimate that Zika will infect up to 4 million people in the Americas next year, as government leaders caution pregnant women to think twice before travelling there. 

Closely linked to neurodevelopmental disorder ‘microcephaly,’ which causes abnormal growth of the brain, Zika virus is reported to have led to a sharp increase in the number of babies born with smaller than normal heads. 

Until now, no cure or vaccine for Zika exists, and scientists are struggling to fully comprehend the link between the virus and birth malformations.

The committee, which meets on February 1, will also discuss how El Niño weather patterns might contribute to the virus’ spread, as mosquito populations increase. 

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