Global Zika emergency ended - Still no all-clear

WHO has declared the global Zika emergency over
The global health emergency declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) because of the Zika epidemic has now been lifted. However, the spread of the dangerous pathogen is still a major danger in some regions.

Global health emergency lifted
In the past two years, the dangerous Zika virus has spread to several countries in Central and South America. The pathogen was occasionally brought to other parts of the world by travelers. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency due to the virus in spring this year. This has now been lifted. However, the danger is not over.

Spread of the Zika virus continues to be a problem
The WHO has now lifted the global health emergency due to the Zika epidemic. However, the chair of the WHO emergency committee, David Heymann, said that the spread of the Zika virus to more than 30 countries continues to be a serious problem and that the fight requires ongoing international efforts, reports the dpa news agency.

According to the agency, virus experts appointed by the WHO had previously discussed the Zika situation in an international conference call. It is said that the UN specialized agency decided to lift the global emergency declared nine months ago on the recommendation of the experts.

Intensive research required
According to experts, the dangers should not be underestimated despite the slowdown in the spread of the pathogen. WHO Department Director for Emergency Programs Peter Salama said there are still a number of issues related to Zika largely unresolved. Therefore, further intensive research into the virus is essential.

Brain malformations in babies
Health experts say that the Zika virus, which is predominantly transmitted by mosquitoes, is not fatal and leads to flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches and sometimes skin rash in around 20 percent of those infected.

The pathogen is also held responsible for thousands of cases of newborn skull defects (microcephaly). The children are born with an unusually small head, which can lead to brain malformations. According to the WHO, Zika is considered "a cause" for these anomalies. After the cases in Latin America, the first baby with microcephaly was born in Europe in the summer.

In Germany, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), over 200 zika virus infections have been diagnosed in returning travelers since October 2015. (As of November 4, 2016) “Sexual transmission of the Zika virus was observed in one case. Since May 2016 there has also been a legal obligation to report zika virus infections in order to be able to monitor the disease better, ”the institute writes on its website.

Long-term health hazard
David Heymann from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical said, according to dpa, that despite the global emergency, Zika remains a "significant and long-term" health hazard.

According to the WHO, the pathogen can be transmitted not only through mosquitoes, but also for a long time after a surviving infection from semen during sex. In May it was reported that the Zika virus was also transmitted by sex for the first time in Germany. (ad)

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