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Zika Situation Report: Zika and potential complications, 12 February 2016

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 WHO has called for a coordinated and multisectoral response through an inter-agency Strategic Response Framework focusing on response, surveillance and research.

 39 countries have reported locally acquired circulation of the virus since January 2007. Geographical distribution of the virus has steadily expanded.

 Six countries (Brazil, French Polynesia, El Salvador, Venezuela, Colombia and Suriname) have reported an increase in the incidence of cases of microcephaly and/or Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) in conjunction with an outbreak of the Zika virus. Puerto Rico and Martinique have reported cases of GBS associated with Zika virus infection without an increase of incidence. No scientific evidence to date confirms a link between Zika virus and microcephaly or GBS.

 Women’s reproductive health has been thrust into the limelight with the spread of the Zika virus. The latest evidence suggests that Zika virus infection during pregnancy may be linked to microcephaly in newborn babies.

 WHO advice on travel to Zika-affected countries includes advice for pregnant women as well as women who are trying to become pregnant and their sexual partners.


 WHO has led partners in the creation of a Strategic Response Framework (SRF) for early response activities to the Zika virus epidemic and potential associated neurological complications to be carried out in the next six months. It comprises activities in coordination, surveillance, community development, vector control, child and maternal health, public health research, and epidemiological research and development. WHO is currently finalizing an overview of urgent needs and requirements for the Zika response.

 At a Member States briefing on 10 February WHO briefed more than a hundred participants on the virus and potential complications and on the SRF.

 As global concern for the spread of the Zika virus gathers momentum, WHO is taking action to strengthen its partnerships with respondents to the current outbreak which has affected 34 countries. There has been a simultaneous increase in the number of reported cases of microcephaly; a congenital birth defect particularly reported in Brazil. Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is also on the rise in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Suriname and Venezuela. GBS was also observed during the 2013—2014 French Polynesia Zika virus outbreak.

 Prevention measures have become critical. There are concerns that that Zika virus may spread globally to environments where mosquitoes can live and breed. The phenomenon has prompted a call for a global and cross-sectoral response as various sectors may be impacted.

 Last week WHO activated an Incident Management System at WHO headquarters and at the regional level. In South America, WHO is working with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) to coordinate response activities with national governments, UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and religious groups.

 The risk of babies being born with microcephaly has raised alarm among women, particularly those who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. There are many unknowns regarding the possible causes of microcephaly. WHO has proposed that until more evidence comes to light, there are ways that women can protect themselves from Zika virus infection.


Incidence of Zika virus

 Zika viral transmission since 2007 has been documented in 46 countries and territories including 34 countries which reported autochthonous transmission, or locally acquired infection, between 2015 and 2016, six countries with indication of viral circulation, five countries where the Zika virus outbreak has ended and one country with a locally acquired case but without vector borne transmission.

 In 2015 and 2016 the geographical range of Zika virus has steadily increased, with 26 countries and territories in the Americas now reporting autochthonous transmission of the virus.

 Brazilian national authorities estimate that up to a 1.5 million cases of Zika virus infection have occurred since the outbreak began.

 After Brazil, Colombia has been the most-affected country, with well over 25 000 suspected cases reported and 1331 Zika virus cases confirmed since October 2015.

 Cape Verde has reported more than seven thousand suspected cases of Zika virus