The World Health Organization has publicly stated that the spread of the Zika virus is a threat, but no longer a global health emergency. The formerly known label of Public Health Emergency of International Concern has been lifted and reclassified as an ongoing threat, similar to malaria or yellow fever.
The WHO's statement, published on Nov. 18, is that the mosquito-borne disease should be understood not as a crisis we have surpassed, but as a continuous possibility of spreading infection.
Local Emergencies Can Still Be Called
Because of the fact that it is seasonal, Zika could return, along with the mosquitoes carrying it, which would imply there is serious concern. While the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes will be tested every season by the scientists, it is important for people to look at this disease as more than just a local emergency that translated into a few cases.
The specialists underline the importance of being aware of the health danger that it poses, should we attempt to resist it. However, regardless of this classification, each country that has encountered the virus can still declare local emergency, according to Dr. David L. Heymann, chair of the advisory committee.
But while the WHO makes this reclassification for the sake of global awareness and avoiding danger, other experts are worried that these statements could result in slowing the international response to an epidemic that still spreads, as people will believe they are safe rather than understand the implications the virus could have.
An Ongoing Threat, Indeed
The decision was made during the fifth meeting of the Emergency Committee on Zika and microcephaly. The declaration of Zika as a PHEIC was recommended in February 2016 because of the great cluster of microcephaly and neurological issues found in babies in Brazil.
However, as time passed and the virus was examined in the lab, the teams of scientists have now connected the Zika virus with microcephaly, which implies that a long-term mechanism concerning this disease is necessary in order to have a positive global response.
While the warning concerning pregnant women traveling to areas where the virus was spotted remains in force, scientists fear the possible consequences of declaring Zika as not an emergency anymore. Consequently, a related concern of the public educated on the matter is that some children will be born with no symptoms of Zika, but will develop neurological issues further in life, because of the lax health measures that may follow these statements of the WHO.