This site is intended for health professionals only

Health leaders to decide if Zika is a international health emergency

The World Health Organization (WHO) has arranged an emergency meeting to decide whether Zika virus (ZIKV) should be classed as a public health emergency of international importance.

The WHO director-general, Margaret Chan, has created an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on ZIKV and the observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations, who will meet on Monday 1 February in Geneva.

This comes after Brazil reported its first case of ZIKV disease in May 2015. Since then, the disease has spread within Brazil and to 22 other countries and territories in the region.

ZIKV is not spread from person-to-person, and the three UK travellers who acquired ZIKV abroad can't pass their infection on to other people in the UK. The virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected female Aedes mosquito.

The virus has been associated with a steep increase in the birth of babies with abnormally small heads and in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome in some countries of the Americas.

Guillain-Barré is a poorly understood condition in which the immune system attacks the nervous system and can result in paralysis.

Since May, WHO's Regional Office for the Americas has been working closely with affected countries with laboratory testing and rapid reporting, in order to guarantee an accurate clinical diagnosis and treatment, track the spread of the virus and the mosquito that carries it, and to promote prevention, especially through mosquito control.

See more information on ZIKV here