January 28, 2016


WASHINGTON (Jan. 28, 2016) – This morning (U.S. time), the World Health Organization Director-General, Margaret Chan, announced the convening of an “emergency committee” under International Health Regulations on Zika virus and observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations.

Public health and law expert Lawrence O. Gostin, JD, of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown, says, “The Director-General has taken a critical first step in recognizing the seriousness of an emerging epidemic. She now must urgently mobilize international resources to curb the rapid spread of Zika worldwide, including aggressive mosquito control, active surveillance, accelerated vaccine researchand travel advisories for pregnant women. It is far better to be over-prepared than to wait until a Zika epidemic spins out of control.”

“If the association between microcephaly and Zika virus is confirmed,” says Gostin, “there will be an ethical imperative to protect women of childbearing age from contracting the infection. The public will demand well-funded, proactive leadership from the World Health Organization.”

On Wednesday, Gostin, and Daniel Lucey, MD, MPH, also of O’Neill Institute, called on WHO to convene the emergency meeting in their JAMA Viewpoint.

Note: Gostin is in Bangkok and is available on a limited basis. Lucey is available only in the afternoon ET. Please contact Karen Teber at km463@georgetown.edu to arrange an interview.

Click here for a list of Georgetown subject matter experts who can provide comment and context on Zika in the areas of infectious disease (clinical and molecular biology), biology, global health, maternal health and Guillain-Barre syndrome.

The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University is the premier center for health law, scholarship, and policy. Its mission is to contribute to a more powerful and deeper understanding of the multiple ways in which law can be used to improve the public’s health, using objective evidence as a measure. The O’Neill Institute seeks to advance scholarship, science, research, and teaching that will encourage key decision-makers in the public, private, and civil society to employ the law as a positive tool for enabling more people in the United States and throughout the world to lead healthier lives.