Zika reaches Africa 'for the first time' says WHO

Zika virus detected in Africa for the first time as cases in Cape Verde are believed to be the same as the ones in South America, says World Health Organization

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

This file photo taken on January 25, 2016 shows an Aedes aegypti mosquito photographed on human skin in a lab of the International Training and Medical Research Training Centre (CIDEIM) in Cali, Colombia.

The World Health Organization said on Friday that the Zika virus has been detected in Africa for the first time.


The UN health agency announced that the Zika virus detection in Western African nation Cape Verde is believed to be same as the one in South America.

WHO believes that the virus was brought to Cape Verde by a Brazilian traveller, just before it spread locally last October.

As of May 8, 7,557 suspected Zika cases have been registered in Cape Verde, as well as three microcephaly cases, WHO said.

The virus has infected nearly 1.5 million in the hardest-hit country Brazil alone.

Zika is an infectious virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and is connected to brain damage and physical development problems in new born babies, this condition is known as microcephaly. 

The mosquito-borne Zika virus usually gives rise to mild symptoms in adults such as a low fever, headaches and joint pain.

In Brazil, 1,271 babies have been born with unusually small heads and deformed brains since the spread of Zika virus last year.

The name of the virus actually comes from Uganda's tropical Zika forest, where the virus was first discovered in 1947. It has spread around the continent since then. 

But until now, Zika did not spark huge concerns because it generally causes only mild, flu-like symptoms in Africa.

US monitoring 279 pregnant women with possible Zika cases

US health officials said on Friday that they are monitoring 279 pregnant women in the United States as well as Puerto Rico who may have contracted the virus.

Of that number, 157 live in the 50 US states and Washington DC, while the other 122 live in Puerto Rico, said the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new figure appears to be a dramatic jump from the 110 pregnant women with confirmed Zika cases which the CDC had reported as of May 11, but officials say the figures are not comparable, as a new reporting system is being used.

All have "laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection," the CDC said.

There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. Experts have warned that United States will likely receive an increase in cases during the summer.

TRTWorld and agencies