First Zika Virus Case Confirmed in South Africa

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South Africa has confirmed its first case of the Zika virus as health authorities in some countries advise women not to become pregnant.

Brazil has been the worst-hit country so far, with the virus spreading to other parts of Latin America, but this is the first high-profile case on the African continent since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a global health emergency.

 

Case confirmed in Johannesburg

A Colombian businessman has become the first confirmed case of the Zika virus in South Africa, after he was diagnosed during a visit to Johannesburg. South Africa’s health minister Aaron Motsoaledi confirmed the case, revealing the man was “presented with fever and a rash approximately four days after arrival in South Africa but is now fully recovered”.

The Zika virus presents similar symptoms to malaria and dengue fever, which is also spread by the same species of mosquito, making it difficult to diagnose in areas without the correct testing equiptment. Unlike certain types of malaria and dengue, however, Zika doesn’t pose any long-term risk to those directly infected.

It’s the conditions it has been linked with in new-born babies that are causing global concern. That and the rapid spread of the disease in parts of the world, combined with the fact there is no treatment or cure.

 

Accelerated spread

Scientists are scrambling to learn more about the virus as its reach continues to spread. It originated from the Zika Forest in Uganda and the first signs of human infection came in 1952. Between 1952 and 2007 only 14 human cases had been confirmed across Africa and parts of Asia.

In 2015 an epidemic broke out in Brazil, infecting around 1.5 million people in just eight months. The virus has also spread to 14 other countries in South and Central America in this time, while cases have also been reported in the US.

Aside from the case confirmed in Johannesburg, scientists in Africa have said there is no evidence of an epidemic in the continent it originated from. There is still much scientist are yet to learn about Zika and some have speculated many Africans could even be immune to the virus.

 

Featured image:

By Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE – Asian Tiger Mosquito (Stegomyia albopicta) male, CC BY-SA 2.0