ZIKA virus strain
responsible for the outbreaks
in Brazil has been detected in
Africa for the first time, the
World Health Organization
has said.
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, an archipelago
off the North West coast of
Africa.
Zika has been linked to
neurological disorders
including babies being born
with small brains.
WHO Regional Director for
Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti
said: “This information will
help African countries to reevaluate
their level of risk
and adapt and increase their
levels of preparedness.”
She said African countries
should raise awareness
among pregnant women
of the complications
with the Zika virus and
encourage people to
protect themselves against
mosquito bites and sexual
transmission.
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.
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.
A UK researcher said
the 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.
“It is likely that the South
American, Caribbean and
Polynesian populations had
no prior immunity to the
virus, so a high proportion
of people who are bitten by
infected mosquitoes caught
the disease,” said Dr Anna
Checkley, of the Hospital
for Tropical Diseases,
University College London
Hospitals.


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