WHO: Fighting Zika still requires 'intense action,' but it's an emergency no longer

An article by FiercePharma
November 22, 2016

Nearly a year ago, Zika came onto the world stage in a big way, quickly spreading to more than 50 countries and causing thousands of microcephaly cases. Soon after, the World Health Organization deemed the outbreak an international emergency.

Now, however, WHO is backing away from that "emergency" distinction.

Researchers have demonstrated the link between Zika and microcephaly, and WHO now says that a “robust longer-term” approach is warranted in fighting the virus. It pulled the international emergency label on Friday.

Already, some experts are criticizing the move.

Georgetown University professor Dr. Lawrence Gostin called the WHO’s decision "quite worrying" in a statement, saying it “has provided reason for governments and donors to pull back even more” from an already “lethargic” response.

"That is a recipe for the very lack of preparedness the world has seen time and again with infectious diseases," Gostin wrote.

In response to the Zika emergency, dozens of biopharma companies and organizations signed on to develop vaccines against a virus that, like others before it, largely caught the scientific community off guard.

The situation invites parallels with the Ebola outbreak, which killed thousands of people in Africa as researchers worked feverishly to develop vaccines. The outbreak ultimately waned as promising vaccine candidates advanced through the clinic.


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