WHO declares Zika a public health threat

Angus Morgan

02 February, 2016

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the continuing spread of Zika virus disease in Latin America and the Caribbean an “extraordinary event” and a public health threat to other parts of the world.

An Emergency Committee of 18 experts and advisors convened by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan looked at the strong link between infection with Zika and a rise in detected cases of congenital malformations and neurological complications.

“The experts agreed that a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected, though not yet scientifically proven,” Dr Chan said.

“All agreed on the urgent need to coordinate international efforts to investigate and understand this relationship better.

“The lack of vaccines and rapid and reliable diagnostic tests, and the absence of population immunity in newly affected countries were cited as further causes for concern.”

While the Committee determined that a coordinated international response is needed to minimise the threat in affected countries and reduce the risk of further international spread, it found no public health justification for restrictions on travel or trade.

“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,” Dr Chan said.

Find out more from the WHO website.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Associate Professor Jack Richards

Group Head, NHMRC Postdoctoral Fellow, Infectious Diseases Physician




[email protected]

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