Health officials say zika “spreading explosively” in the Americas

January 28, 2016, 8:34pm

World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan attends the WHO Executive Board information session for Member States on the Zika virus in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 28, 2016. Photo: Denis Balibouse—Reuters on TIME  

Justin Worland, TIME

The head of the World Health Organization warned Thursday that the Zika virus is “spreading explosively” in the Americas.

“The level of concern is high, as is the level of uncertainty,” said Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, at a briefing. “Questions abound. We need to get some answers quickly.”

The virus, which can lead to severe birth defects, has led to a slew of emergency measures in countries across the Americas. El Salvador called on women to delay having children for two years. Brazil has sent more than 200,000 troops to eradicate the mosquitoes that carry the disease. The U.S. officials have said the country is launching a “full-court press” to address the issue.

WHO officials will meet on Monday to decide whether the disease outbreak qualifies as an international public health emergency.