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WHO says Zika is ‘Spreading Explosively’ throughout the Americas

Update Date: Jan 28, 2016 09:27 AM EST

The Zika virus is "spreading explosively," the World Health Organization (WHO) reported. The United Nations health agency said on Thursday that it will be holding an emergency meeting next week to discuss ways of controlling the mosquito-borne virus.

"The level of alarm is extremely high, as is the level of uncertainty. Questions abound. We need to get some answers quickly, " Margaret Chan, the director-general of the WHO, said in a briefing in Geneva, reported by the Washington Post.

According to the health expert, a total of 23 countries have been affected by the virus, which is spreading in each region locally. The country that has been affected the most is Brazil, where authorities are analyzing the link between the virus and a birth defect called microcephaly. The officials stated that there have been more than 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly, which occurs when an infant is born with an abnormally small head.

The country's health minister, Claduio Maierovitch stated that they are currently investigating 12 deceased babies with confirmed microcephaly for any signs of a potential link to Zika.

"A causal relationship between Zika virus infection and birth defects and neurological syndromes has not been established, but is strongly suspected," WHO said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that within the states, there are currently 31 confirmed cases of Zika. Although all of the cases have been in Americans who recently traveled to one of the affected countries, the CDC stated that the "number is increasing rapidly."

So far, there has not been a case of a Zika transmission occurring in the U.S. The WHO, however, expects the virus to affect every single country in the Americas with the exception of Canada and Chile.

The Zika virus is a mild infection that includes symptoms such as fever, rash and conjunctivitis. In about 80 percent of the cases, symptoms might not manifest. There is currently no treatment and no vaccine for it.

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