@Oneillinstitute Global Health Scholar Reacts to @WHO’s Decision on #Zika #PHEIC

Article ID: 665113

Released: 18-Nov-2016 12:05 PM EST

Source Newsroom: O'Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law

Expert Pitch
  • Credit: Photodune

  • Credit: The O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law

    Lawrence O. Gostin

WASHINGTON (Nov. 18, 2016) -- Georgetown global health and law expert Lawrence O. Gostin says today’s decision by the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Committee to lift the “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” (PHEIC) for Zika is “quite worrying.”

The Emergency Committee met earlier today to determine if “Zika and observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations” continued to meet criteria for a PHEIC.

“As a technical matter, Zika is no longer spreading at the level usually considered for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” says Gostin, Faculty Director for the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University and University Professor. “But there are good reasons to maintain the emergency. While we are entering the winter in the global north, the global south will soon enter the summer, which is a high-risk period for Zika. Plus Zika continues to spread to other countries. 

“I think the international response to Zika has been lethargic, and with WHO’s action to call off the global emergency, it has provided reason for governments and donors to pull back even more. That is a recipe for the very lack of preparedness the world has seen time and again with infectious diseases.

“There is precedent for maintaining an emergency although there is no longer uncontrolled spread of disease. For example, there remain only a handful of polio cases, yet outbreaks have deeply concerned international public health experts. The potential of the Zika virus to spread and cause birth defects in the next generation warrant continual watchfulness, research, and global action.”

To speak to Gostin, please contact him at gostin@law.georgetown.edu.

The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University is the premier center for health law, scholarship, and policy. Its mission is to contribute to a more powerful and deeper understanding of the multiple ways in which law can be used to improve the public’s health, using objective evidence as a measure. The O’Neill Institute seeks to advance scholarship, science, research, and teaching that will encourage key decision-makers in the public, private, and civil society to employ the law as a positive tool for enabling more people in the United States and throughout the world to lead healthier lives.

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