Zika virus is 'highly likely' to be a cause of microcephaly
The World Health Organization (WHO) published a new situation report on Zika virus yesterday, giving a full update on the state of the virus and what is known about it so far.
According to the WHO, multiple studies have shown mounting evidence that Zika virus is not only likely a cause of microcephaly, but also of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), and other neurological disorders.
— WHO (@WHO) March 24, 2016
Microcephaly and GBS
Brazil and French Polynesia have reported an increase in microcephaly and other fetal malformations, the WHO noted. Additionally, single cases in the U.S., Slovenia and Panama have all linked Zika to microcephaly or another fetal malformation.
Twelve different countries or territories have either confirmed a Zika virus infection along with a GBS case, or have reported an increased incidence GBS overall.
The WHO situation report also gave a broad overview of the scope of Zika on a global scale.
From the beginning of 2007 through March 23, 2016, 61 countries and territories around the globe had confirmed transmission of Zika virus transmission. As of yesterday, four of the 61 had reported that the Zika virus outbreak had ended there.
Largely a mosquito-borne virus, there are now five countries that have reported transmission of Zika by means other than mosquito (likely through sexual transmission): Argentina, France, Italy, New Zealand and the U.S.
The WHO noted that, among many important next steps in the research and analysis of Zika, one largely important task is to work toward "quantifying the risk of neurological disorders following Zika virus infection, and to investigate the biological mechanisms that lead to neurological disorders."