Government Affairs WHO declares health emergency over Zika By Jamie Biesiada / February 01, 2016 Share 1 -- The World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed clusters of microcephaly and other neurologic disorders, combined with the spread of Zika virus, an international public health emergency. The clusters — found a year ago in French Polynesia and in Brazil in recent weeks — are believed to be linked to the mosquito-borne virus, but their relationship has not yet been determined.The public health emergency determination was made by a WHO emergency committee that WHO's director-general, Dr. Margaret Chan, formed last week. The committee met Monday in Geneva.The committee did not find a public health justification for restrictions on travel or trade to prevent the spread of Zika, Chan said.David Heymann, chairman of the committee and a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the committee made two recommendations: surveillance for microcephaly needs to be standardized, and research into the clusters needs to be intensified to see if they are, as suspected, related to Zika. Chan pointed out that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which has issued a travel alert recommending that pregnant women postpone travel to Zika-affected countries — is working closely with Brazil and other countries to establish if there is a causal relationship with Zika, microcephaly and Guillaine-Barre syndrome. The studies on the potential link will start within the next two weeks.Heymann said he was unsure how long the studies would take to complete.He also clarified that Zika on its own is not an international public health emergency.