WHO ends Zika as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern

ECDC comment

​​The Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO), on the advice of the Emergency Committee, declared the end​ of the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) regarding microcephaly, other neurological disorders and Zika virus on 18 November. The PHEIC was originally declared on 1 February 2016. 

​The Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO), on the advice of the Emergency Committee, declared the end​ of the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) regarding microcephaly, other neurological disorders and Zika virus on 18 November. The PHEIC was originally declared on 1 February 2016

The Emergency Committee made the recommendation to end the PHEIC “because research has now demonstrated the link between Zika virus infection and microcephaly, and the Emergency Committee considered a robust longer-term technical mechanism was now required to manage the global response”. The risk assessment has not changed and WHO still considers the Zika epidemic and the associated complications a significant public health challenge requiring intense action.

A longer-term and sustained programme of work is now required to manage the global response and this will be managed, as a high priority, within the normal WHO organisation. WHO will put in place a transition plan to establish the long-term response as well as a technical advisory committee. The Director-General reissued the Temporary Recommendations from the previous meetings of the Committee which will be incorporated into the longer-term response mechanism.

ECDC comment

The advances in the understanding of the association between Zika virus and zika congenital syndrome (microcephaly) and other neurological disorders have led to this decision under the International Health Regulations (IHR). Although the intensity and scale of expansion of the Zika outbreak is slowing, Zika virus remains of significant concern as recognised by WHO. There remains gaps in understanding of the virus and its consequences that need to be addressed. For instance, the duration of viable virus in semen after exposure, estimates of the risks of adverse pregnancy outcomes, the role of potential co-factors in Zika congenital syndrome and Guillain–Barré syndrome.

ECDC will continue to follow the epidemiological and scientific developments related to Zika virus and will continue to work with WHO and other international partners.