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Zika Virus: Increase in Neurological Disorders & Neonatal Malformations


  • Published: 2016-02-02 (Revised/Updated 2016-02-08) : Author: WHO : Contact: www.who.int
  • Synopsis: WHO statement on first meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR 2005) Emergency Committee on Zika virus and observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations.

The first meeting of the Emergency Committee (EC) convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR 2005) regarding clusters of microcephaly cases and other neurologic disorders in some areas affected by Zika virus was held by teleconference on 1 February 2016, from 13:10 to 16:55 Central European Time.

Zika virus, (pronounced zee-kuh), is defined as a flavivirus, closely related to dengue. Zika virus is related to dengue, yellow fever, West Nile and Japanese encephalitis, viruses that are also members of the virus family Flaviviridae. Outbreaks of zika virus have previously been reported in tropical Africa, in some areas in Southeast Asia and more recently in the Pacific Islands.

The WHO Secretariat briefed the Committee on the clusters of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) that have been temporally associated with Zika virus transmission in some settings. The Committee was provided with additional data on the current understanding of the history of Zika virus, its spread, clinical presentation and epidemiology.

The following States Parties provided information on a potential association between microcephaly and/or neurological disorders and Zika virus disease: Brazil, France, United States of America, and El Salvador.

The Committee advised that the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurologic disorders reported in Brazil, following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014, constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

The Committee provided the following advice to the Director-General for her consideration to address the PHEIC (clusters of microcephaly and neurologic disorders) and their possible association with Zika virus, in accordance with IHR (2005).

Microcephaly and neurologic disorders

As these clusters have occurred in areas newly infected with Zika virus, and in keeping with good public health practice and the absence of another explanation for these clusters, the Committee highlights the importance of aggressive measures to reduce infection with Zika virus, particularly among pregnant women and women of childbearing age. As a precautionary measure, the Committee made the following additional recommendations:

Zika virus transmission

Longer-term measures

Travel measures

Data sharing

Based on this advice the Director-General declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on 1 February 2016. The Director-General endorsed the Committee’s advice and issued them as Temporary Recommendations under IHR (2005). The Director-General thanked the Committee Members and Advisors for their advice.

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