The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Zika virus an international emergency. WHO convened an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee today in response to Zika virus outbreaks in parts of Latin and South America. The danger is that the virus can cause a birth defect called microcephaly in unborn babies which results in long-term disabilities.
Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist Dr. Pritish Tosh says, "The amount of attention that is being put toward Zika virus is certainly appropriate in terms of protecting pregnant women and their unborn children, and hopefully we can springboard some of the attention towards developing new vaccines and educating people on proper ways to prevent being bitten by mosquitos which not only carry Zika virus but other infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya virus, among others.
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Dr. Tosh says that, "We are seeing changes in distribution of a lot of different illnesses — some that used to only be seen in tropical areas are now starting to be seen farther north." He adds, "Climate change and increased travel commerce to previously isolated areas may relate to the cause for the increase of emerging infections, especially from tropical areas."
Watch the Mayo Clinic Minute on Zika virus.