WHO body to meet Feb. 1 on Zika virus
MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to convene on Monday(Feb. 1) an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee to find out whether the outbreak of Zika virus and its link to the observed increase in neurological disorders and brain malformations among infants constituted an international public health emergency concern.
In a statement on Sunday, the WHO said Director General Margaret Chan announced a meeting of the committee to be held on Monday in Geneva to talk about the spread of the virus, particularly in the Latin American countries. Decisions and advice on the matter would be made public on its website, it added.
“The [WHO] is supporting the scaling up and strengthening of surveillance systems in countries that have reported cases of Zika and of microcephaly and other neurological conditions that may be associated with the virus,” it said.
Surveillance is also being beefed up in countries where the virus may spread, according to the WHO. “In the coming weeks, the [WHO] will convene experts to address critical gaps in scientific knowledge about the virus and its potential effects on fetuses, children and adults,” it said.
It added that priority would be given to the development of vaccines and new tools to control mosquito populations and the improvement of diagnostic tests.
Brazil reported its first case of the mosquito-borne disease in May last year. It has spread to 22 other countries and territories in Latina America since then. Taiwan also reported its first case of the virus, a man traveling from Northern Thailand.
Last week, Health Secretary Janette Garin said the Department of Health has started “active surveillance” against the virus but the Philippines’ risk has been less compared to countries with high volume of tourist traffic to and from Brazil, the center of the outbreak.
But the DOH has reiterated its call for all Filipino households to maintain cleanliness and observe the precautions against dengue to avoid the spread of the Zika virus, which is also carried by the aggressive Aedes aegypti mosquito.
“There is no room for us to be complacent about this…because this is something that we need to address,” the DOH spokesperson, Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy told reporters on Sunday
“We must admit that the threat of Zika virus is there, not only in the Philippines but in any other country,” he added. SFM
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