WHO declares global health emergency over Zika situation

Published February 2, 2016
WHO and Ministry of National Health Services had said that there is no threat of the Zika virus in Pakistan. ─AFP
WHO and Ministry of National Health Services had said that there is no threat of the Zika virus in Pakistan. ─AFP
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan speaks during a news conference after the first meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee concerning the Zika virus and observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations in Geneva. ─Reuters
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan speaks during a news conference after the first meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee concerning the Zika virus and observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations in Geneva. ─Reuters

GENEVA: The World Health Organisation on Monday declared that a surge in serious birth defects in South America was “strongly suspected” of being caused by the Zika virus and constituted an international health emergency.

The UN health body said that a causal relationship between the mosquito-borne Zika virus and a surge in cases of microcephaly -- a devastating condition in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head and brain -- was “strongly suspected”, and declared the situation a “public health emergency of international concern. “

No threat in Pakistan

A statement jointly issued by the WHO and the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) on January 30 said that there is no threat of the Zika virus in Pakistan.

NHS Secretary Ayub Sheikh had told Dawn that there was no evidence that the virus had ever travelled to Pakistan. He said that not a single case of the Zika virus had been confirmed in the country, adding the situation was being monitored following reports of Zika cases in Latin America.

Related: No need to panic about Zika: WHO

What is Zika virus?

ZIKA is a virus that is spread through the bite of Aedes Aegypti mosquito which also causes dengue and chikungunya. This virus causes microcephaly. Children, in such cases, are born abnormal with a small brain and big eyes.

The symptoms of the disease are moderate fever, skin rash, headaches, joints and muscle pain or soreness, fatigue, red eyes. These symptoms emerge between three days to a week after a person is bitten by a mosquito. To date there is no vaccine or specific drug for the treatment of Zika virus.

People infected by the virus should get plenty of rest, drink fluids to prevent dehydration, and take medicines prescribed by a medical practitioner to reduce fever. People should use mosquito repellents and mosquito nets.

Stringent measures should also be taken to ensure there are no pools of stagnant water. People should exercise caution and avoid visiting affected countries like the USA and Brazil.

Related: Zika virus: symptoms and prevention

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