(Photo: Getty Images)
The World Health Organization has convened an emergency committee to discuss the “explosive” spread of the Zika virus, which has been linked to thousands of birth defects in Latin America.
WHO’s Director General says the virus is “spreading explosively” and “the level of alarm is extremely high.”
She explained that the relationship between Zika and birth defects has not yet been fully established but is “strongly suspected.”
“The possible links, only recently suspected, have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika, from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions,” she said Thursday.
A post on the WHO website reveals that the emergency committee will meet to determine if the outbreak is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
WHO plans to prioritize the development of vaccines and new tools to control mosquito populations, as well as improving diagnostic test and will convene experts to address critical gaps in scientific knowledge about the virus and its potential effects on fetuses, children and adults.
For most people, the Zika virus causes only a brief, mild flu-like illness. But in pregnant women it has been linked to an alarming increase in the rate of the birth defect known as microcephaly — a debilitatingly small head and brain size.
Microcephaly may cause mental retardation, as well as delays in speech, movement, and growth, according to the Mayo Clinic.
We’ll update this breaking story as needed.
More on the Zika virus on Yahoo Health:
- Zika Virus Symptoms: What Are They?
- Do Pregnant Women in the U.S. Need to Worry About Zika Virus?
- What to Know About the Zika Virus If You’re Trying to Get Pregnant
- 10 Essential Facts About the Zika Virus
- U.S. Issues Treatment Guidelines for Infants Exposed to Zika
Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Kent Sepkowitz explains the risks of the Zika virus in the U.S. and abroad
Read This Next: Zika Virus Expected To Spread Throughout Americas