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Published on : Tuesday, January 26, 2016
With the World Health Organisation’s statement that Zika virus is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile, the Department of Foreign Affairs has upgraded its travel warnings regarding the mosquito-borne virus.
Also, pregnant women headed to 22 countries in South America, Africa and the Pacific are being urged to rethink their trip as Zika virus was linked to a foetal deformation known as microcephaly, in which infants are born with smaller-than-usual brains.
Zika has not yet been reported in the continental US, although a woman who fell ill with Zika in Brazil later gave birth to a brain-damaged baby in Hawaii.
The WHO said in a statement that Brazil has reported 3893 suspected cases of microcephaly, over 30 times more than had been reported in any year since 2010.
The disease’s rapid spread, to 21 countries and territories of the region since May 2015, is due to a lack of immunity among the population and the prevalence of the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries the virus,WHO said. It further added that there is currently no evidence of Zika being transmitted to babies through breast milk.
WHO advised pregnant women planning to travel to areas where Zika is circulating to consult a healthcare provider before travelling and on return.
Zika is normally a mild disease and there is little scientific data on it, so it is unclear why it might be causing microcephaly in Brazil, the WHO has said.