Health alert: Zika Virus now in Africa

Health alert: Zika Virus now in Africa
Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes. Symptoms can include mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache.

The World Health Organization raises Health alert: Zika Virus now in Africa and same virus strain responsible for the outbreaks in Brazil has been detected in Africa for the first time.

The WHO said it was concerned that the latest strain was spreading and was “on the doorstep of Africa”.

It is currently circulating in Cape Verde Island.

Key facts

  • Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes.
  • People with Zika virus disease can have symptoms that can include mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
  • There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.
  • The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.
  • The virus is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

Zika has been linked to neurological disorders including babies being born with small brains.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said: “This information will help African countries to re-evaluate their level of risk and adapt and increase their levels of preparedness.”

Awareness and Protection

Dr Matshidiso Moeti encourages African countries to raise awareness among pregnant women of the complications with the Zika virus and encourage people to protect themselves against mosquito bites and sexual transmission.

Health alert: Zika Virus now in Africa
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti

But she said she would not recommend strict travel restrictions to try to stop the spread of the disease.

There have been more than 7,000 suspected cases of Zika in Cape Verde, with 180 pregnant women thought to have been infected. The WHO says three babies have been born brain damaged with microcephaly.

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Until the virus was sequenced by scientists in Senegal, it was not certain if the outbreak in Cape Verde was caused by the African or Asian type, which has hit Brazil and other Latin American countries.

Tests show that this is the Asian strain – the same as the one blamed for birth abnormalities in Brazil.

There have been around 1,300 confirmed cases of microcephaly – babies born with small brains – in Brazil, with thousands more under investigation.

But the goodnews for Africa is that Zika virus has been circulating at a low level in African countries for more than 50 years, so some of the population may already be immune to the virus.

 

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