Germany has confirmed that it has had five cases of the Zika virus between October 2015 and January 2016, Sky News reports. The announcement by the German health ministry came as the World Health Organisation warned the virus was “spreading explosively”.
Speaking at a meeting of WHO member states, director-general Dr Margaret Chan said the level of alarm was “extremely high”. The mosquito-borne virus has been linked to a steep increase in the number of babies born with severe birth defects.
These include abnormally small heads. “A causal relationship between Zika virus infection and birth malformations and neurological syndromes has not yet been established, but is strongly suspected,” the WHO chief said. “The possible links, only recently suspected, have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika, from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions,” she added.
Dr Chan has called an emergency meeting on 1 February to discuss if the outbreak qualifies as an international health emergency. The crisis is so far concentrated on South and Central America and the Caribbean.
The Brazilian government has deployed more than 200,000 troops to eradicate mosquitoes. Asian countries said on Friday they were bracing for the virus, with Malaysia saying it could “spread quickly” if introduced.