The World Health Organization will hold an emergency meeting Monday to find ways to battle the Zika virus, which is linked to birth defects and “spreading explosively” through the Americas. The WHO could classify the Zika outbreak now in 25 countries and territories as a “public health emergency of international concern,” deserving of a coordinated global response. An emergency declaration is “similar to a global Amber Alert for public health,” Susan Kim, deputy director of Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law in Washington, said Sunday.

“An emergency declaration by WHO is a spotlight on the issue, telling the world that this is something the world needs to pay attention to.” Zika is “a novel, emerging infection that we know very little about,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of Georgetown’s O’Neill Institute, who urged the WHO to act in a JAMA editorial last week. “The people in these countries deserve the protection of the international community and the World Health Organization.” FULL REPORT