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World Health Organization to Convene Emergency Meeting for Zika Virus

Accepted submission by takyon at 2016-01-28 15:11:46

Zika, a mosquito-borne virus linked to birth defects [], is spreading, and the World Health Organization will convene an emergency session on Monday [] to deal with the problem:

The World Health Organization announced Thursday that it would convene an emergency meeting to try to find ways to stop the transmission of the Zika virus — which officials said is "spreading explosively" across the Americas.

"The level of alarm is extremely high, as is the level of uncertainty. Questions abound. We need to get some answers quickly, " Margaret Chan, the director-general of the WHO, said in a briefing to member countries in Geneva.

Chan said that the situation today is dramatically different than last year because of the surge in the number of cases and the severity of the symptoms and that "the level of alarm is extremely high."

Health officials said the number of countries impacted by mosquitoes that are spreading the virus locally is now up to 23. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the United States now has 31 laboratory confirmed cases in 11 states and the District of Columbia. All are travel-related, the CDC's Lyle Petersen said, and "this number is increasing rapidly." The country also has 20 additional cases because of local transmission in U.S. territories — 19 in Puerto Rico and one in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Alternately at The Guardian []. Some believe that South American countries will loosen abortion restrictions [] in response to the virus. For example, Brazil's Supreme Federal Court ruled in 2012 that abortion was legal in cases when a fetus develops anencephaly (no brain). The Zika virus in Brazil is being linked to a 20x increase in microcephaly (abnormally small brain) prevalence, which is not always fatal.

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