The World Health Organization will meet Monday to determine whether the Zika outbreak should be considered a public health emergency of international concern, like polio or Ebola.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said on Thursday that the virus is “spreading explosively” through the Americas, affecting 23 countries and territories. “The level of alarm is extremely high,” Chan said.
However, in the continental U.S., Zika outbreaks “will likely be limited,” said Anne Schuchat, CDC Principal Deputy Director. Local transmission will likely occur in the southeast, particularly along Florida’s Gulf Coast, based on experience with dengue and chikungunya viruses, which are also spread through the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
From 2015 to present, the U.S. has seen 31 travel-related cases of Zika in 11 states and the District of Columbia but no domestic transmissions.
Officials are still investigating whether Zika causes microcephaly in newborns, but the link is “strongly suspected,” according to the WHO.
Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said that phase I trials of a possible Zika vaccine may begin before the end of the year. He cautioned that a vaccine wouldn’t be widely available for several years.
WHO notice (Free)
CDC media website (Free)