Zika is no longer an worldwide public health emergency, says WHO

Judith QuinnNov 26, 2016

Thirteen babies in Brazil born with normal head circumference have been diagnosed with congenital Zika syndrome, with brain scans showing extensive malformations, inflammation and reduced brain volume, researchers reported on Tuesday. Fighting Zika has been a learning process, he said, but it won't be a victory until there's a vaccine. Florida reports more than 200 locally-acquired cases, spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquitos that thrive in Florida. It was linked to birth defects and neurological complications in babies. Of the 13 infants, 11 gradually developed the birth defect microcephaly, or abnormally small head size, in the months following birth.

"CDC continues to recommend that pregnant women not travel to areas with Zika", the CDC said in a release regarding the cases.

A doctor performs physical therapy on an infant born with microcephaly in Brazil.

This downgrade by World Health Organization follows on the heels of reports earlier this month that failed to show a verifiable link between the growing cases of the Zika virus and a birth defect known as microcephaly, whereby infants are born with underdeveloped heads.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday that the Florida Department of Health cleared the northern portion of an area in Miami Beach where local transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus has occurred.

Researchers said more study is needed to fully comprehend the range of disorders associated with congenital Zika infection, and emphasized the importance of early neuroimaging for infants born to mothers who contracted the virus while pregnant.

Removing the global emergency designation puts zika in the class of other unsafe mosquito-borne disease, like malaria or yellow fever. We are studying the full range of other potential health problems that Zika virus infection during pregnancy may cause.

It also causes other damage to the brains and bodies of babies.

By framing Zika as a longer program of work, Salama said, "we are sending the message that Zika is here to stay and WHO's response is here to stay in a very robust manner".

An expert from the agency, Dr. Nathalie Broutet, said studies looking at how long the Zika virus is present in body fluids after infection will need to be conducted for longer periods than had been initially planned.

Zika was first discovered in Uganda in 1947 with the first human case being detected in Nigeria in 1954.

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