Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff attends a ministerial meeting to discuss new measures to combat the proliferation of Zika virus in Brazil, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on February 1,  2016. The World Health Organization said today in Geneva that the spread of Zika and its possible connection with cases of microcephaly has become an international public health emergency. AFP PHOTO/EVARISTO SA
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff attends a ministerial meeting to discuss new measures to combat the proliferation of Zika virus in Brazil, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on February 1, 2016. The World Health Organization said today in Geneva that the spread of Zika and its possible connection with cases of microcephaly has become an international public health emergency. AFP PHOTO/EVARISTO SA

Geneva : The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared an international emergency over the explosive spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which is linked to birth defects in America.

The WHO has also created a global unit to respond to the Zika virus, voicing fears the disease blamed for a surge in birth defects in South America could spread across Africa and Asia.

“We have now set up a global response unit, which brings together all people across WHO in headquarters, in the regions, to deal with the formal response” to Zika, said WHO expert Anthony Costello.

The UN health body had said Monday that a surge in cases in South America of microcephaly — a devastating condition in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head and brain — was likely caused by the mosquito-borne Zika virus, and declared the situation a “public health emergency of international concern. “The WHO is under pressure to move swiftly to tackle Zika, after admitting it was slow to respond to the recent Ebola outbreak that ravaged parts of west Africa.

Costello, a paediatrician and an expert on microcephaly, told reporters in Geneva that the WHO’s new response unit would aim to use “all the lessons we’ve learned from the Ebola crisis” to help quickly address Zika and the birth defects and neurological conditions it is believed to cause.

He emphasised the urgency of rapid action, stressing there was no reason to believe the crisis would remain limited to South America, where 25 countries so far have reported Zika cases.

Underlining his point, Thai officials  announced Tuesday that a man had contracted the virus in the country. Cape Verde, which lies off the coast of west Africa, has also already reported domestic Zika cases.

l No travel for

pregnant women

Brasilia:

Pregnant women should not travel to Brazil for the Olympics because of the risk posed by the Zika virus, suspected of causing fetal brain damage, President Dilma Rousseff’s chief of staff has said.

l 50 cases in Panama

Panama City:

Panama has 50 cases of Zika virus infections and warned that the mosquito-borne disease, which is linked to birth defects, will end up spreading across the Central American nation.

l 2 cases in New

South Wales

CANBERRA:

Two cases of Zika virus infection were detected in Australia’s News South Wales state, the media reported on Tuesday.  According to reports, the victims had recently travelled to the Caribbean before heading back to Sydney, Xinhua news agency reported.

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