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The spread of the Zika virus

zika virus

The World Health Organization has convened an emergency committee on Zika virus. It will meet on 1 February to decide whether Zika should be treated as a global emergency. The organisation expects “three to four million cases of Zika virus disease” in the Americas.

Zika virus, which has caused thousands of severe birth defects in Brazil, is fanning out across the western hemisphere and appears capable of invading nearly all countries in the Americas, reports New Scientist. Zika isn’t as dangerous as Ebola, but it isn’t a virus to take lightly. It has been linked to alarming birth defects and an autoimmune disease that can cause paralysis.

WHO is now supporting countries to control Zika virus disease through strengthening surveillance, building the capacity of laboratories to detect the virus, working with countries to eliminate mosquito populations, preparing recommendations for the clinical care and monitoring of persons with Zika virus infection and defining and supporting priority areas of research into Zika virus disease and possible complications.

Key facts

Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema) and conjunctivitis. 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.

Source: New Scientist, WHO