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WHO warns Europe to be on guard against Zika

February 3, 2016

Health officials have told European leaders they must act quickly to prevent the spread of the Zika virus. The warning comes days after the WHO declared a the virus a public health emergency.

Brasilien - Maßnahmen gegen Zika Virus - Rio de Janeiro
Image: Reuters/P. Olivares

Zsuzsanna Jakab, the European director of the World Health Organization (WHO), said European countries had to act quickly to protect themselves from the Zika virus, which is spread by mosquitoes and suspected of causing deformities and brain damage in infants in South America.

"I urge European countries to act early in a coordinated way to control the mosquitoes," Jakab said in a statement on Wednesday.

She said this included monitoring the insects' known breeding sites and planning to spray insecticides.

Infografik Die Ausbreitung des Zika-Virus Englisch

Public emergency

At a summit of Latin American health officials, Marcelo Castro, Brazil's top health official, said South and Latin America needed to "exchange information, make alliances and discuss what coordinated action we can take to control this epidemic."

The virus is spread by a specific type of mosquito - the Aedes aegypti - which has seen a reemergence in parts of Portugal, Georgia and Russia in recent years.

Honduras - Maßnahmen gegen Zika Virus - Tegucigalpa
Officials have started to take action against the virus in countries like HondurasImage: Reuters/J. Cabrera

The WHO's statement came the same day the Pan American Health Organization, an international health agency representing 35 countries in North and South America, said it needed an estimated $8.5 million (7.8 million euros) to combat the virus.

There is currently no known cure for the virus, which might have infected as many as 4 million people in the Americas. On Monday, the WHO announced a public health emergency.

Brazil, the country hardest-hit by Zika, said it would go ahead with the Olympic Games set to take place this year in Rio de Janeiro. The government has said it has already started taking steps to maximize security around the area where the games will take place.

blc/sms (Reuters, AFP)