WHO: Zika no longer a public health emergency of international concern

The World Health Organization announced that while the Zika virus and its associated complications remain a significant public health challenge, it no longer represents a public health emergency of international concern as defined under the International Health Regulations.

The term 'Public Health Emergency of International Concern' is defined as "an extraordinary event which is determined…to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease; and to potentially require a coordinated international response."

The Emergency Committee on Zika and microcephaly, convened by WHO's director-general under the International Health Regulations, met on Nov. 18, 2016, via teleconference, where they made this decision. The committee had initially declared Zika a public health emergency of international concern in February 2016.

The committee gave Zika the designation because of clusters of microcephaly and other neurological disorders reported in Brazil and in French Polynesia, which they felt required urgent and coordinated research. Now that research has confirmed the link between Zika virus infection and microcephaly, the committee "felt that a robust longer-term technical mechanism was now required to manage the global response."

Thus, the committee plans on establishing a sustained research program with dedicated resources to address Zika's long-term nature.

According to the CDC, U.S. states have reported 139 locally acquired mosquito-borne cases of Zika and 4,115 travel-associated cases reported as of Nov. 17, 2016.

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