African countries have been advised to be vigilant as the Zika virus spreads across the Americas.
According to Dr. Ruchika Kohil, a clinical pathologist at Pathologists Lancet Kenya, a Nairobi-based pathology laboratory, the spread of the virus might not be fast but all African nations should be vigilant on taking right measures to prevent its spread.
“With international travel and international trade, the reality of Zika spreading to the rest of the world including Africa is a reality. In terms of are we gearing up for a Zika epidemic or pandemic now? No, I don’t think we need to be worried at that scale. But of course, I think our government, our health ministry need to be aware that there is a potential of spread into our country,” she said.
With international travel and international trade, the reality of Zika spreading to the rest of the world including Africa is a reality
Many countries in Africa are on the watch after the first instance of the virus was reported in Cape Verde. This has sparked fears as many countries in Africa are still battling the mosquito-borne diseases like malaria.
Ruchika admitted that there is the need of doing more research to determine the different species of the virus in different regions.
“There might be an element of immunity that is existent in the African population. But is it the same strain of the Zika virus from the 1940s or is it a new strain, or is it even the Zika virus that’s causing the microcephaly or not? There’s a lack of information. We have more questions than we have answers,” she said.
The virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1947 and it has spread widely in the western hemisphere with high prevalence in South America.
The World Health Organization has linked the virus to 23 countries and regions in South America. The virus is strongly suspected to have caused unprecedented cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and damaged brains.