UN health chief: Zika virus is ‘spreading explosively’

GENEVA: Declaring that the Zika virus is “spreading explosively,” chief of the World Health Organisation announced it will hold an emergency meeting of independent experts on Monday to decide if the virus outbreak should be declared an international health emergency.

At a special meeting Thursday in Geneva, WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said the virus - which has been linked to birth defects and neurological problems - is becoming more of a threat.

Chan said although there was no definitive proof that the Zika virus was responsible for a spike in the number of babies being born with abnormally small heads in Brazil, “the level of alarm is extremely high.”

She also noted a possible relationship between Zika infection and Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can cause temporary paralysis.

“The possible links, only recently suspected, have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions. The increased incidence of microcephaly is particularly alarming, as it places a heart-breaking burden on families and communities,” Chan said.