Zika virus may hit Europe, says WHO
Amsterdam: The Zika virus, an infectious disease linked to severe birth defects in babies, may spread to Europe as the weather gets warmer. According to the health officials, the risk is very low.
The chances for the infectious disease are more in areas where Aedes mosquitoes survive, particularly on the island of Madeira and the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea.
"There is a risk of spread of Zika virus disease in the European Region and ... this risk varies from country to country, said Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO's regional director for Europe.
The WHO European regions cover 900 millions in 53 countries . It stretches from Arctic Ocean in the north to the Mediterranean Sea in the South and from the Atlantic in the West to the Pacific in the east.
- The virus has been linked to thousands of cases of a birth defect known as microcephaly in babies of women who become infected with Zika during pregnancy.
- The WHO said there is strong scientific consensus that Zika can also cause Guillain-Barre. It is a a rare neurological syndrome that causes temporary paralysis in adults.
- The WHO's European office said that if no action is taken to mitigate the threat then Aedes aegypti mosquito can carry the virus in 18 countries in the region.
- Aedes mosquitoes are not found in those countries and their climates would not be suitable for the mosquitoes to establish themselves.
- Countries with high and moderate risk of Zika should improve vector-control measures to prevent the spread of mosquitoes and reduce their density.
- It also considered the capacity of the country to contain transmission at an early stage, based on four main factors: vector control, clinical surveillance, laboratory capacity and emergency risk communications.
- The WHO's regional office is convening a meeting of European health experts in Portugal from June 22-24 to discuss the Zika threat further.