- Chided for responding slowly to health crises in the past, the World Health Organization is streamlining decision-making in its emergency response program, according to a release.
- WHO member states agreed to changes that will ensure medical and logistical teams hit the ground running when outbreaks like Ebola and Zika virus, wars, and natural disasters crop up.
- A study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine found the risk of microcephaly due to a Zika virus infection could be as high as 13.2% in the first trimester of pregnancy.
WHO called the creation of the Health Emergencies Program “one of the most profound transformations in the organization’s history.”
Emergency response chief Bruce Aylward told Fox News that the revamp would shift WHO from a risk-averse agency to one that would favor over-deployment in emergencies and then scaling back if the situation allowed. He said the approach would require a “cultural adjustment” at WHO.
Member states agreed to bankroll the program at $494 million for 2016-2017 — a $160 million hike in WHO’s current funding for emergencies.
WHO was criticized for mismanaging the response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which claimed more than 11,300 lives. With the Zika virus, WHO wants to be able to be able to scale up quickly when and where outbreaks occur.
The mosquito-borne virus causes a host of other birth defects as well, and has been associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome in adults.