World Health Organization says, Zika is no longer a global health emergency

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Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes, a mosquito known for transmitting other diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. People with Zika virus disease can have symptoms including mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache. Zika came into the spotlight alongside Brazil’s hosting of the 2016 Olympic games, where shortly before the games began, reports were widespread that when pregnant woman contracted the disease their phoetus had a very high risk of contract microcephaly, with cases presenting throughout the country. The sexual transmission of Zika also gained widespread press throughout the Olympic Games, and has been proven to be transmissible in some cases.

While intense efforts are continuing to investigate the link between Zika virus and a range of neurological disorders, the United Nation’s World Health organization (WHO) released a statement on Friday Nov 18th that Zika is no longer considered a global health emergency. A WHO advisory panel said that while the spread of Zika remains of great importance, it should now be classed with the other mosquito-borne maladies such as malaria and yellow fever, The New York Times reported.

“We are not downgrading the importance of Zika,” Dr. Peter Salamana, Executive Director of the WHO’s emergencies program, told the newspaper. “We are sending the message that Zika is here to stay and the WHO response is here to stay.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, virologist and director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has stated that despite the WHO’s standpoint, the NIAID is continuing to fund research into a vaccine against Zika, primarily as a result of the infant mortality and abnormality rates witnessed. He felt that it is too early to lift the state of emergency, since Zika is a seasonal disease.

The U.S. Centers for Disease control and prevention have advised that pregnant women should not travel to affected areas, or should take cautionary, measures to avoid mosquito bites. This advice came after mosquitoes carrying Zika virus made their debut in Florida, especially in certain areas of Miami. The CDC created a preventative measure by informing the public of sites where Zika virus is active and may pose a threat to pregnant women, which can be viewed here.

If you have symptoms of Zika, and have recently traveled to an area suspected of Zika activity, it is not necessarily urgent to seek medical attention, as there is no specific treatment for the virus. It is important to get plenty of rest, drink enough fluid, and treat your symptoms with common medicines. If the symptoms worsen, it is then important to seek medical advice. If you are pregnant or are trying to conceive, it is more important to seek medical attention to confirm whether you have contracted the virus. The only way to confirm a diagnosis of Zika virus is through laboratory tests on blood or other body fluids such as urine, saliva or semen. Since there is no vaccine for Zika, pregnant women are advised to stay away from infected areas altogether.

The Zika Strategic Response Framework, layed out by the WHO, is focused on supporting countries with Zika infections as well as the treatment and containment of the spread of the virus.