WTO wants vigilance against Zika virus to remain high

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GENEVA, Mar 11, CMC – The World Health Organization (WTO) is urging Caribbean countries to continue to be vigilant although there has been a decline in case of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
The WTO has issued new guidance on the virus that has been linked to birth defects and neurological complications.
The new WHO data also lists countries where the Aedes aegypti mosquito is present but where there is no sign of the virus.
The insect is considered to be the main transmitter of the disease, which has been identified in more than 80 countries to date, WHO said, adding that overall, the global risk assessment has not changed.
“The (Zika virus) continues to spread geographically to areas where competent vectors are present.
The current data adds some 70 countries to the list of those considered to be “at-risk,” according to the UN.
It said that these are countries where there’s no sign of the virus but where the Aedes aegypti mosquito is present; it is considered to be the main carrier of the virus.
WHO technical Officer Monika Gehner, said the new guidance will help “because now we can assess risks more precisely,
“Now, even if you do not have Zika virus transmission, but if you have the Aedes aegypti mosquito, you are at risk of Zika virus transmission.”
Gehner stressed that, amid surging global travel, “a traveler who is infected with Zika virus may go to an area in a country and in fact mosquitos that are established there, and a mosquito can then transmit to other people and so on, so you have a cycle of transmission.”
The WHO said that the aim of this new guidance is not to spread alarm. Instead, it’s a call to governments to do more to prevent the spread of Zika,.
“This requires greater surveillance of mosquito populations and research into suspected Zika infections, as well as better diagnostic techniques and updated health advice to at-risk communities and travelers.”
WHO first declared Zika an international public health emergency in February last year.
Since it was detected in Brazil late last year, WHO said the virus has spread through the Americas and the Caribbean to other regions, including Africa, Oceania and Asia.

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