Zika outbreak 'the fault of governments', WHO claims

The current Zika epidemic and the resulting birth defects are the fault of governments that chose to abandon programs aimed at controlling mosquitoes and offering basic family planning assistance to young women.

That is the damning verdict of the World Health Organization (WHO), which warns that the world is not adequately prepared to cope with consequences of a widespread epidemic.

It comes amid claims from Brazilian experts that the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry the Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses, were initially wiped out from the country, only to re-emerge after the government ceased funding for relevant projects.

Speaking to the World Health Assembly, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said that this policy failure was the primary contributor to the current situation.

Chan's warnings echo those of experts in the US, who claim that already underfunded public health services are being cut back, potentially leaving the country at risk of its own Zika epidemic.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says it is already watching some 279 pregnant women diagnosed with the disease, adding that the number of Zika cases is highly likely to increase during the warmer weather of the summer.

In a column for the Washington Post, Ron Klain, the former U.S. Ebola czar, even went so far as to say: "It is not a question of whether babies will be born in the United States with Zika-related microcephaly — it is a question of when and how many."

He added that the "absurd wrangling in Washington" risked leaving a legacy of "preventable suffering".

Meanwhile, Chan claims the WHO has already taken steps in attempting to help the world prepare for new outbreaks of disease within its International Health Regulations, which require all countries to intensify their internal monitoring for diseases and then report what they find.