WHO Committee Holds Second Meeting on Zika Virus

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The committee suggests there may be a connection between the Zika virus and other neurological disorders in some affected areas.

An Emergency Committee convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations met on March 8, 2016 to discuss clusters of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders in some areas affected by the Zika virus, according to a press announcement from the World Health Organization (WHO).

During the meeting, the WHO Secretariat briefed the committee on action in implementing the Temporary Recommendations issued by the Director-General and on clusters of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). The committee was also provided with experimental studies on the possible causal association between Zika, microcephaly, and GBS.

In a press announcement from WHO, the committee noted that there is increasing evidence of a causal relationship between microcephaly cases, other neurological disorders, and the Zika virus. The committee also noted that further research is needed to generate additional evidence of the association.

The committee made several recommendations to the Director-General concerning Zika’s relationship to neurological disorders. The recommendations included vector control, risk communication, clinical care, and travel measures. They also discussed methods for further study of the relationship between microcephaly, other neurological disorders, and the Zika virus. Some of these methods include:


  • Intensifying research into the relationship between the Zika virus and neurological disorders

  • Dedicating particular attention to generating data on the genetic sequences and clinical effect of different Zika virus strains, studying the neuropathology of microcephaly, and conducting additional case-control and cohort studies

  • Researching the natural history of the Zika virus

  • Conducting retrospective and prospective studies of the rates of microcephaly and other neurological disorders in areas where this connection was not originally observed

  • Exploring the possibility of other causative factors or cofactors.

The committee’s recommendations also discuss surveillance of the virus, expressing the need for the dissemination of standard case definitions and diagnostics to areas of transmission and at-risk areas. Additionally, they say development of new diagnostics for the virus should be made a priority. This includes intensification of development efforts for virus vaccines and therapeutics.

Source: WHO