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Zika Exploding in Americas: WHO
   2016-01-29 07:28:56    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Li Bin

A health worker shows a flier used to explain people how to prevent Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika viruses in San Salvador, El Salvador January 28, 2016. An outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus is affecting large parts of Latin America and the Caribbean and is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said. [Photo: CFP/Jose Cabezas]

The World Health Organization has announced it will hold an emergency meeting of independent experts next Monday to decide if the outbreak of the Zika virus should be declared an international health emergency.

At a special meeting on Thursday in Geneva, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said the virus - which has been linked to birth defects and neurological problems was becoming much more of a threat.

"Last year the virus was detected in the Americas, where it is now spreading explosively. As of today cases have been reported in 23 countries and territories in the region. The level of alarm is extremely high."

One WHO scientist said the Americas could see up to four million cases of Zika in the next year.

Chan said although there was no definitive proof that the Zika virus was responsible for a spike in the number of babies being born with abnormally small heads in Brazil, "the level of alarm is extremely high."

At the meantime, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes said he does not believe the spreading Zika virus "is a problem for the Olympics," which open in six months in the picturesque South American city.

"I don't think that this Zika (virus) situation is a problem for the Olympics. The month where the Olympics will be played, August, is a month where you don't have proliferation of the mosquito. I would say it's much more easy. This is our problem, a problem of Brazil, a problem of Rio, a challenge that we must face. We have been facing it for years, without success. That's the issue. To be very honest, the least of my concerns regarding Zika and dengue are the Olympics."

The Zika virus was first detected in 1947 and for decades only caused mild disease.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, the Zika virus is now in more than 20 countries, mostly in Central and South America.

It is spread by the same mosquito that spreads dengue and yellow fever.

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