Disease is spreading explosively throughout South and Central America.
(CNN)The World Health Organization declared a “public health emergency of international concern” Monday over the Zika virus and the health problems that doctors fear it is causing.
The agency said the emergency is warranted because of how fast the mosquito-borne virus is spreading and its suspected link to an alarming spike in babies born with abnormally small heads — a condition called microcephaly — in Brazil and French Polynesia.
Reports of a serious neurological condition, called Guillame-Barre Syndrome, that can lead to paralysis, have also risen in areas where the virus has been reported. Health officials have specifically seen clusters of this in El Salvador, Brazil and French Polynesia, according to WHO’s Dr. Bruce Aylward.
In Brazil, officials insisted on Monday that the Zika virus is only a risk to pregnant women and should not deter tourists from attending the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“If someone is bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus, the damage is more dramatic if we are talking about a pregnant woman. If I am a man or woman, unless I’m pregnant, I would develop the antibodies necessary to fight virus in 3 or 4 days,” said Jacques Wagner, chief of staff to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, following an emergency meeting about Zika on Monday with the President and 31 cabinet ministers.
What is being done? See update from U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
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