The World Health Organization (WHO) has stepped in amid the rise of Zika virus cases across the world. The virus has spread widely, with scientists saying that it could infect four million people by the year's end because a vaccine is 10 years away.

On Thursday, WHO announced that it will hold an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Monday, Feb. 1. The meeting, which will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, aims to determine if the outbreak can be considered a public health emergency.

The organzation's move to convene a meeting signifies how great of a problem Zika has grown.

"The level of alarm is extremely high," says WHO director general Dr. Margaret Chan

The disease, which the WHO described as "spreading explosively," had its first case in Brazil in May 2015. Since then, the virus has been transmitted all over the country and in 22 other nations within the region.

Zika virus is associated with birth defects such as microcephaly or abnormally small heads of newborns. Experts have also talked about how the virus is related to a rare but severe paralysis disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).

Although a causal relationship between Zika and neurological disorders has not yet been confirmed, experts are strongly suspecting a link.

With all the seemingly grave effects of Zika, Chan worries that there is still no vaccine or specific diagnostic test developed for the disease.

Patients with Zika virus usually do not exhibit serious signs and symptoms. The disease typically causes mild fever, rash and muscle pains. Deaths are also rare.

Due to the self-limiting nature of the disease, researchers did not find utmost relevance to developing countermeasures. However, with the recent fetal complications and global dilemma, experts now deem vaccine development as urgent. They also think that determining individuals with the most risk of GBS could bring rise to specific antiviral therapies.

WHO says it is already working on it.

"WHO will also prioritize the development of vaccines and new tools to control mosquito populations, as well as improving diagnostic tests," the WHO statement reads.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony S. Fauci says his office is now on the early stages of vaccine development and diagnostics improvement. However, he admits that it may be impossible to come up with a vaccine this year or in the near future.

Daniel Lucey and Lawrence Gostin from Georgetown University agreed on the dire availability of the vaccine in the coming years. "A safe and effective Zika virus vaccine is probably 3 to 10 years away even with accelerated research," they write in a viewpoint piece published in JAMA.

Zika virus is caused by Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, which also carry dengue fever. The first vaccine against dengue has been approved in the Philippines, Brazil and Mexico in 2015.

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