Zika virus 'spreading explosively': WHO
GENEVA: The Zika virus is “spreading explosively” in the Americas and the region may see up to four million cases of the disease strongly suspected of causing birth defects, the World Health Organization warned on Thursday.
As the number of suspected cases of microcephaly — thought to be linked to the virus — surged in Brazil, WHO head Margaret Chan said an emergency committee would meet on Monday to determine whether the Zika outbreak amounts to a global health emergency.
Microcephaly causes babies to be born with an abnormally small head and brain. Cases have soared in Brazil from 163 a year on average to more than 3,718 suspected cases since the outbreak, and 68 babies have died, according to the health ministry.
Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica and Puerto Rico have warned women to avoid getting pregnant for the time being.
Jitters over Zika have spread far beyond the affected areas to Europe and North America, where dozens of cases have been identified among people returning from vacation or business abroad.
France — which has logged five cases contracted by its citizens while travelling — urged women not to travel to French overseas territories in South America and the Caribbean.
There is currently no treatment for Zika and a top US health chief warned on Thursday the hunt for a vaccine could take years.