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WHO declares the Zika virus an international publich health emergency

WHO Zika virus

On yesterday’s WHO meeting, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus and its suspected link to birth defects an international public health emergency.

This is a rare move that signals the seriousness of the outbreak and gives countries new tools to fight it.

An outbreak of the Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, was detected in Brazil in May and has since moved into more than 20 countries in Latin America, including two new ones announced Monday: Costa Rica and Jamaica, reports the New York Times.

The main worry is over the virus’s possible link to microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with unusually small heads and, in the vast majority of cases, damaged brains. Reported cases of microcephalyare rising sharply in Brazil, ground zero for the disease, though researchers have yet to establish that Zika causes the condition.