The Zika virus that is believed to cause brain damage in infants is spreading worldwide after its outbreak in Brazil. WHO says it is likely to spread across the Americas, and the first cases have also been detected in Europe.
The WHO says that women planning to travel to areas where Zika is circulating should consult their healthcare provider before traveling, as well as upon their return home.
Margaret Chan, the director-general of the WHO, said board members would meet on Monday 1 February to establish if the Zika virus should be declared an international emergency.
And an official at the organisation’s office for the Americas, where the disease has spread to 23 countries in a matter of months, said we can “expect three to four million cases”.
Four cases of Zika virus have been recorded in Italy. All of the cases involve people who have recently returned from Latin America and the Caribbean, La Repubblica reported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has added the US Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic to its Zika virus travel alerts, according to Reuters.
Two causes of Zika virus have surfaced in Switzerland, according to federal health authorities cited by The Local. The virus was detected in two people who had returned from tropical countries, according to the federal office of public health.
Brazil has announced that it will deploy 220,000 troops for a day next month to spread awareness about the Zika virus. It comes after the country’s top health official acknowledge that the nation is “badly losing the battle” against mosquito-borne diseases.
One person has tested positive for the Zika virus in Denmark, according to Danish media. The new case comes after Italy, Spain, the UK and Switzerland registered several people infected with the disease.
US President Barack Obama has called for urgent action against the Zika virus, stating that research to develop vaccines and treatments must be accelerated.
Singapore’s government has announced it will introduce measures to control the risk of the Zika virus. We “will implement a set of control measures to reduce the risk of the Zika virus becoming entrenched in Singapore,” the government said on Wednesday. Those measures include advisory posters at the airport for outbound travelers, and hospitalizing all confirmed cases, according to Reuters. Singapore is already battling the potentially fatal dengue fever.
A spokesperson for Sweden’s Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten) has told The Local that a Swede was diagnosed with Zika virus as early as July 2015. Although she did not provide further details, she did say it is understood that the individual was never seriously ill.
A total of 19 people have tested positive for Zika virus in Puerto Rico, although none were pregnant women, according to the island’s health secretary. “An infected person must have come, who infected a population of mosquitoes, which in turn infected a local population, permitting the spread of the disease,” Puerto Rico’s Health Secretary Ana Rius said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has tasked the Health Ministry with developing a vaccine against the Zika virus and increasing cooperation with transport companies and air carriers top prevent its distribution around the globe. “There’s some other stuff that’s moving from Latin America; another virus, which is spread by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes, of course, won’t be able to fly over the ocean, but infected people can. The virus has already appeared in Europe,” the president said. Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova assured the head of state that the situation around Zika virus has been “kept under scrutiny” since the start of the current outbreak.
Russian scientists will develop and patent the first “express method” to diagnose the Zika virus by March 2016, Russia’s consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said on Thursday, according to RIA Novosti.
Two cases of the Zika virus were registered in Germany in December, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Robert Koch Institute revealed Thursday. Two Germans were diagnosed with the infection after they had returned from Haiti. However, the institute’s spokesman called on Germans not to worry about the virus’s possible spread, as “the mosquitoes are not in Germany and it would be extremely difficult for them to come,” adding that though they can`t “rule anything out, but it would be very, very, very unlikely.” The German Foreign Ministry issued a warning in December, advising pregnant women not to “make unnecessary trips to areas of the Zika outbreak.”
At a special meeting Thursday, WHO Director General Margaret Chan said the virus was “spreading explosively,” AP reported. Chan said although there was no definitive proof that Zika was responsible for a spike in the number of babies being born with abnormally small heads in Brazil, “the level of alarm is extremely high.”
The Zika virus is strongly suspected of causing birth defects and may infect 3 million to 4 million people in the Americas, including 1.5 million in Brazil, Marcos Espinal, head of communicable diseases at PAHO – the WHO’s Americas arm – said Thursday. Espinal said a study would soon be published suggesting a correlation between Zika and microcephaly, the phenomenon of babies born with small heads and brains, in Brazil.
French Health Minister Marisol Touraine urged pregnant women not to travel to France’s overseas territories for fear of contracting the Zika virus. “This is a serious epidemic and I want to voice my concern,” she told France Info radio on Thursday. “I very strongly urge pregnant women in mainland France to postpone their trip if they’re planning to go to Martinique, French Guiana or the other overseas territories.”
Austrian authorities confirmed the first case of the Zika virus in the country. An infected woman is said to display “mild symptoms of the Zika virus after returning from Brazil.” The woman is not pregnant and is expected to make a full recovery. The head of the Tropical Medicine Institute, Prof. Pamela Rendi-Wagner, said there is still no risk of infection outbreak in Austria, as the Aedes mosquito is not present in the region, local media report.