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Zika Is No Longer a Global Health Emergency (But That Doesn't Mean the Threat Is Over)

The WHO made an important announcement about the Zika virus. Here's what you need to know.

zika virus mosquito Shutterstock
Zika. It's a word that has struck fear in pregnant women and those who are TTC for months. But now, the United Nation's World Health Organization has declared that the mosquito-borne virus, which has been proven to cause catastrophic birth defects like microcephaly, is no longer a global health emergency. Zika is now being put on par with other ongoing health threats caused by mosquito bites like malaria and yellow fever.

While this is certainly good news, it's important to remember that Zika still poses a serious threat to pregnant women and unborn babies. In fact, as Dr. Peter Salama, executive director of the WHO's emergencies program explained to the New York Times, "We are not downgrading the importance of Zika. We are sending the message that Zika is here to stay and the WHO response is here to stay."

So, on the one hand, it's a relief that Zika is no longer being considered an "emergency." On the other hand, it's deeply troubling that the illness likely won't be going away anytime soon. As Dr. Salama noted to the Times, Zika is likely to rear its ugly head again in the summer months when the aegypti mosquitoes that carry it are active.

It's worth noting some health organizations like the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases were not happy about the WHO's decision to declare an end to the Zika emergency, because they fear efforts to research and cure the illness will lose steam. Consider too that summer starts in Brazil, the so-called ground zero of the latest Zika outbreak, in December. Here's hoping we don't see a massive resurgence of the illness, and that we have learned some things since the threat of Zika first took hold.

For now, pregnant women should still avoid areas where active infections are taking place. Keep up with the most recent travel advisories and find advice about how to protect yourself and your family against infection on the CDC's website.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.