Zika No Longer An International Emergency, But Still A Threat

Nov 21, 2016

The Zika virus outbreak is no longer an international emergency, according to the World Health Organization. But a Florida epidemiologist is stressing the disease is still a threat. 

Credit Turkle Tom via flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/turkletom/

The World Health Organization is now classifying the Zika virus as a long-term challenge on par with other mosquito-borne illnesses. But the agency says the declaration does not lessen the threat of the disease, which is spreading throughout the Western Hemisphere. Thomas Unnasch is a global health professor at the University of South Florida. He worries a misunderstanding of the seriousness of Zika could lead to a decline in public concern.

“It’s no longer an emergency but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer a problem, ok? We just understand, we now have a better understanding of what kind of a problem we’re facing. But it’s certainly no less of a problem than it was six months or eight months ago,” he said.

Unnasch says Zika is one more in a long list of ongoing public health issues. 

“The WHO does not declare cardio-vascular disease to be a public health emergency, right? But more people die of cardio-vascular disease than almost anything else worldwide these days. It’s still a really big problem, it’s just…something we’re living with. It’s no longer an emergency," he said.

The state is still documenting new cases of Zika throughout Florida, but local transmission of the virus is centralized in Miami-Dade County.