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WHO declares Zika outbreak a global health emergency

The World Health Organisation says Zika poses a global public health emergency

1 February 2016, 7:40pm
The Zika virus causes microcephaly, a congenital condition that results in babies being born with an abnormally small head
The Zika virus causes microcephaly, a congenital condition that results in babies being born with an abnormally small head
The World Health Organisation has declared the Zika virus as a global health emergency requiring an urgent and united response.

Experts have expressed concern that the virus was spreading far and fast, with devastating consequences.

The infection has been linked to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains.

The WHO alert, BBC reports, puts Zika in the same category of international concern as Ebola. This means that research and aid will be fast-tracked to tackle the infection.

WHO director general, Margaret Chan called Zika an "extraordinary event" that needed a coordinated response.

"I am now declaring that the recent cluster of microcephaly and other neurological abnormalities reported in Latin America following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014 constitutes a public health emergency of international concern."

She said the priorities were to protect pregnant women and their babies from harm and to control the mosquitoes that are spreading the virus.