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Zika virus outbreak: WHO chief convenes emergency committee meeting

The World Health Organization said Thursday it will convene an emergency committee on the “explosively spreading” Zika virus.

The meeting scheduled for Monday will examine whether the Zika outbreak should be classified as a as an international health emergency, a statement from the WHO said.

WHO’s Director General said the virus is “spreading explosively” and “the level of alarm is extremely high.”

While she said the relationship between Zika and birth defects has not yet been fully established but is “strongly suspected.”

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“The possible links, only recently suspected, have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika, from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions,” she said Thursday.

Twenty four countries have reported cases of the virus and the WHO has predicted it will eventually end up in virtually every Western Hemisphere country.

Experts on international health matters have accused the World Health Organization of acting far too slowly in raising the alarm about Zika.

Concern about the virus has grown after its arrival in Brazil and other countries in the Americas was associated with an increase in babies born with abnormally small heads.

This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com

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Zika virus outbreak: WHO chief convenes emergency committee meeting