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WHO Sees Scientific Consensus On Zika Link To Microcephaly, Neurological Disorders

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The World Health Organization (WHO) saw a scientific consensus on the link of Zika virus to microcephaly and Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS).

The latest situation report is an update to last week's WHO statement that Zika virus was "highly likely" to be the cause of the birth defects and neurological disorder. Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease that is currently spreading across the Caribbean and Latin America.

"Based on observational, cohort and case-control studies, there is a strong scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of Guillain-Barré Syndrome, microcephaly and other neurological disorders," WHO said in the report update published on March 31.

Microcephaly And Other Neurological Disorders

Microcephaly is a neurological disease that can lead to the incomplete development of a baby's brain. This results in babies born with abnormally small heads and can lead to the development of severe health issues including infant death. On the other hand, GBS can cause temporary paralysis.

To date, microcephaly and other neurological disorders among newborns were reported in Brazil with 944 cases, Colombia with 32 cases, French Polynesia with eight cases, Cabo Verde with two cases, and Martinique and Panama with one case each. In the United States and Slovenia, two reported cases were traced to the individuals' recent visit to Brazil.

Thirteen countries or territories also saw an increase in GBS cases in the context of Zika virus outbreak. For instance, there is an increased number of confirmed Zika virus infections among GBS patients.

Zika Outbreaks

According to the WHO update, from Jan. 1, 2007 to March 30, 2016, there were 61 countries and territories with documented Zika virus transmissions. Out of them, only four - French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Cook Islands and Isla De Pascua in Chile - reported that their Zika virus outbreaks ended.

Six countries reported local Zika virus transmissions without the presence of known mosquito carriers, which suggested the virus was sexually transmitted. The countries included the United States, Argentina, New Zealand, France, Italy and Chile.

The Zika virus was first confirmed in the Americas in 2015. Since then, the geographical outbreak of the Zika virus has consistently widened. In the Region of the Americas, 33 countries and territories reported mosquito-borne Zika transmission. As for the Western Pacific Region, 16 countries and areas reported Zika virus cases with mosquito vectors.

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