On February 1st, 2016, the Zika virus was officially declared as public health emergency of international concern by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) – the health arm of the United Nations, which is dedicated to monitoring disease outbreaks and the performance of health systems around the world.

Both the U.S. and the UN have expressed grave concern about the Zika outbreak in the Americas.

Zika is now present in 23 countries and is “spreading explosively,” according to WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan. Moreover, mathematical models offered by the WHO suggest there could be 3 to 4 million infections caused by the virus in 2016.

“International response is needed to minimize the threat in infected countries and reduce risk of international spread.”

– Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization

What is the Zika virus?

The Zika virus is a disease spread by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito – the same type of mosquito that also transmits dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. The rapidly spreading virus is of most concern to expecting mothers, as Zika has been linked to birth malformations such as microcephaly and neurological abnormalities in babies. Both the WHO and the CDC are working to definitely prove this link. However, as Dr. Chan has said, “The level of alarm is extremely high.”

Learn more about the Zika virus from WHO:

Zika Virus Fact Sheet       Zika Virus Q&A

What is the history of the Zika Virus in the Americas?