HANOI – There is a high risk of Zika virus spreading through Asia-Pacific as hundreds of cases have been reported in Singapore and Thailand with two babies diagnosed with Zika-linked microcephaly, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned.
Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reports that in its annual regional report released in Manila, the Philippines, on Monday, the WHO said the mosquito-borne virus has been detected in 70 countries worldwide, including at least 19 in Asia-Pacific.
It is highly likely that the Asia-Pacific region, which includes China, Japan, Australia, most Southeast Asian nations and the Pacific islands, will continue to report new cases and possibly new outbreaks of Zika, according to WHO director for health security and emergencies Li Ailan.
Li said Zika has been in the region since 1947 but it was difficult to pinpoint if individuals had been infected overseas. In addition, the region’s tropical weather, large mosquito populations and the large number of international travelers also pose problems to the control of the virus.
The WHO’s latest statistics show that there have been more than 400 Zika cases detected in Singapore alone, while Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia have also reported infections.
Zika is mainly transmitted through the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which also carries dengue fever. The virus causes only mild symptoms in most, including fever, sore eyes and a rash. But pregnant women infected with the virus risk giving birth to babies with microcephaly – a deformation that leads to abnormally small brains and heads.
Currently there is no vaccine or specific medicine to treat the disease.
Brazil is worst affected by the Zika outbreak with about 1.5 million patients. – BERNAMA