According to a post today on bbc.com, the World Health Organization has issued a worldwide alert, putting the Zika virus in the same category as Ebola. By doing this research and other medical help will be fast-tracked to help tackle the infection and get it under control.
“I am now declaring that the recent cluster of microcephaly and other neurological abnormalities reported in Latin America following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014 constitutes a public health emergency of international concern,” said WHO director General, Margaret Chen.
The Zika virus is spreading so fast in South America that there have been around 4,000 reported cases of microcephaly in Brazil alone since this October.
The WHO believes the virus will spread rapidly throughout all the Americas.
The Zika virus, which is linked to mothers giving birth to babies with tiny brains, spreads through infected mosquitoes that don’t breed in Chile or Canada, but are prevalent in other countries in the Americas. It is already present in more than 20 countries, and has no known cure.
Director Chen advises that pregnant women delay traveling to Zika infected areas, and that for those who live in infected areas, that they seek advice from their physician, as well as protect themselves against mosquito bites by wearing repellent.
The Zika virus poses the biggest threat to unborn babies, and most infections in older humans cause few or no symptoms. There have been some reported cases of people developing a rare paralysis disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome after being bitten by an infected mosquito, but these have been few.