Zika babies can develop microcephaly months after birth — CDC

On Tuesday, Salama and other World Health Organization experts briefed affected countries about the critical Zika research needs.

The WHO originally declared the Zika epidemic a global health emergency in February 2016, and the outbreak sparked fears of infection among travelers to this summer's Olympic Games in Brazil.

That goal has been met according to Dr. David Heymann, chairman of the Zika Emergency Committee who made the statement at a conference call in Geneva, Reuters reported. Rather, the World Health Organization is settling in for the long haul, deciding that the virus will be beaten by a steady, sustained effort-not quick fixes.

In Florida, at least 161 pregnant women have tested positive for Zika, according to the state health department.

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But some public health experts anxious that losing the "international emergency" label could slow research into the virus, which continues to cause infections in the United States and elsewhere. These problems are collectively known as congenital Zika syndrome. In a press call Friday, David Heymann, MD chair of the Zika Emergency Committee said the emergency status was created to contain Zika's spread and to boost research funding.

Last September, President Barack Obama approved a $1.1 billion for the fight against Zika virus, $400 million of which dedicated exclusively to the development of a vaccine and diagnostic tests. "We are also learning lot every day", he said. More than half the infants had microcephaly, brain calcifications, loss of brain tissue volume, and other brain structural abnormalities, the researchers found. CDC also suggested pregnant women to also steer clear from the areas where the county declared as Zika transmission zones. The virus continues to spread geographically in places where there are mosquitoes that can carry Zika (Aedes mosquitoes).

As a result, the EC felt that Zika virus and associated consequences remain a significant enduring public health challenge requiring intense action, but no longer represent a PHEIC as defined under the International Health Regulations.

The WHO's expert panel extensively discussed how the change in designation would be interpreted and whether that would make it harder to raise money for the worldwide response, Heymann said.

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Zika may come back once in a while since it is seasonal. Zika and microcephaly will surface wherever there are vectors that can transmit the disease, the experts said.

Traditionally, WHO's emergency declarations are created to motivate governments to take steps to curb epidemics. "If a pregnant woman travels to or lives in an area with active Zika virus transmission, she should talk with her healthcare provider and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika virus".

Salama said 28 countries and territories have now reported microcephaly and 19 countries have reported Guillain-Barre Syndrome. In addition, there have been 2,300 confirmed cases of microcephaly caused by the Zika virus infection. However, "these studies can't be done overnight".

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