W.H.O. Says — Zika Virus ‘Spreading Explosively’ in Americas

Public health workers participated in a day of fumigation to stop spread of the Aedes aegypti mosquito in Caracas, Venezuela, on Thursday. Credit Miguel Gutierrez/European Pressphoto Agency

The World Health Organization rang a global alarm over the Zika virus on Thursday, saying the disease was “spreading explosively” in the Americas and that as many as four million people could be infected by the end of the year.

Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the W.H.O., said she was convening an emergency meeting on Monday to decide whether to declare a public health emergency. The move was a signal of how seriously the global health agency was treating the outbreak of the virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, after widespread criticism that it had allowed the last major global health crisis — Ebola — to fester for months without a coordinated, effective strategy.

“The level of alarm is extremely high,” Dr. Chan said in a speech in Geneva.

Brazilians Face Zika’s Effects

Baby Joao was born with microcephaly, a condition characterized by a small head thought to be linked to the Zika virus. To fight the outbreak of the disease, Brazil needs money, some doctors say.

But even as international health authorities sounded strong warnings, health officials in the United States sought to reassure Americans, saying that the vast majority of those who are exposed to the virus never get sick, and that the risk of an outbreak at home was very low, in part due to effective mosquito control.

“Right now I would say that the risk of Zika virus transmission over most of the United States is very low,” said Dr. William Reisen, editor of the Journal of Medical Entomology.

Dr. Reisen said the fact that American cities are less crowded and that the use of air conditioning and window screens is widespread means that it is very unlikely that the virus will spread in the United States as it has in less developed countries in South and Central America. He added that municipal services tended to be better in the United States than some rapidly expanding cities in the tropics.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “For the average American who is not traveling to this area, there nothing they need to worry about.”

Continue reading the main story: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/29/health/zika-virus-spreading-explosively-in-americas-who-says.html

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