Photo by Public Health Image Library (PHIL).

Photo by Public Health Image Library (PHIL).

Public health workers in the Americas and beyond are on alert, following evidence that Zika — a mosquito-borne virus that is spreading explosively across the region — may be linked to serious birth defects.

With Zika transmission reported in 23 countries and territories of the Americas as of early February, “the level of alarm is extremely high,” said World Health Organization Director-general Margaret Chan, MD, MPH. A committee convened by Chan officially declared Zika a public health emergency of international concern Feb. 1, indicating that the disease constitutes an international public health risk and requires a coordinated response.

“The level of concern is high, as is the level of uncertainty,” Chan said Jan. 28 in announcing the committee. “Questions abound. We need to get some answers quickly.”

The committee released recommendations for immediate action on Zika virus, calling for additional surveillance, diagnostics, reporting, vector control, risk communication and personal protective measures. In the long-term, the committee called for research on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

Read this published-ahead-of-print story  in full at The Nation’s Health.


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