WHO Declares Zika Global Health Emergency Top story

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World Health Organisation Director General, Margret Chan on Monday declared Zika virus a global health emergency following advice by a panel of experts.

The World Health Organization declares the Zika virus a global health emergency as the disease linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil, spreads to other countries

The World Health Organization designated the Zika virus and its suspected complications in newborns as a public health emergency of international concern Monday.

Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne virus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys through a monitoring network of sylvatic yellow fever.

It was subsequently identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific according to World Health organization.

It has alarmed public health officials because of its possible association with suspected cases of brain damage in babies. 

Health experts are concerned that the Zika virus is in some way responsible for a significant increase in cases of microcephaly, a condition which leads to babies being born with an abnormally small skull and deformed brain.

In Brazil there have been at least 4,000 cases of the condition reported since October. Around 20 countries mainly in Central and South America are thought to be affected.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said at a media briefing Monday that Zika- related complications are a public health threat to other parts of the world. She agrees with the advice by the panel of experts calling for a coordinated international response.

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The WHO alert means that the outbreak has been classed in the same category of concern as Ebola, a disease which has killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa.

The declaration paves the way for the mobilization of more financial resources and manpower to fight the mosquito-born pathogen spreading through the Americas.