WHO review connects Zika to paralyzing disorder, microcephaly

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Cause for Congressional inaction remains unclear

An evaluation of studies completed through July indicates that Zika virus infection is a trigger for the paralyzing Guillain Barre Syndrome, and a cause of congenital brain abnormalities that include microcephaly, the World Health Organization announced today in an updated statement on links between the continuing spread of the virus and its associated impacts.

The statement is an update of one published in March citing “strong scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of GBS, microcephaly and other neurological disorders” based on observation as well as studies.

Today’s statement is the outcome of an expert panel’s review of studies and scientific literature begun in February, examining evidence of a causal relationship between Zika virus infection and brain abnormalities among babies born to mothers infected during pregnancy, and Zika virus infection and incidence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome among adults.While the panel did conclude that Zika is a cause of those disorders, it not conclude whether Zika virus alone is a cause, or interacts with other factors. And while it noted that dengue virus is carried by the species of mosquito that transmits Zika, and has spread in many Zika-affected countries during the same period, it did not reach a conclusion of whether dengue virus infection is also a factor.

The panel did conclude that the evidence indicates a need to ramp up public health responses and recommends efforts to increase access to care, prevention and surveillance as well as treatment, vaccine and vector control research and development.

Their recommendation, however, comes a day after Congress once again stalled a bill that would provide emergency funding for those activities.

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